MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (CHAPTER 1 – ROUGH)

CHAPTER 1: DECISIONS TO FLEE AND ALCOHOLIC TENDENCIES TEND TO MIX; LIGHTNING AND THUNDER AND STEEL BIRDS; TOUGH LESSONS ARE LEARNED QUICKER IN LATIN-AMERICA  

In my experience, there is almost nothing more exhilarating for a young adventurer than traveling to a new country on his own. The seasoned traveler,  as with most things in life, gets accustomed to this, so they may disagree…But I suspect that even they, despite the numerous lands they’ve conquered, will always feel that tingling sensation in the pit of their stomachs as they board a fantastic machine which they know will fly them to new and far-away lands… maybe not always new, but certainly always far from whatever refuge they might call “home.” It is the very nature of traveling that in itself already is different, exciting, hectic…You wave goodbye to people you know and usually love; you run around the airport with a bag on every limb while holding the passport tightly in your mouth; you worry about your luggage constantly, or at least until the mean-looking guard that looks like a goddamn club bouncer, or like Bruno – the brute that works for a pig-feeding gangster in some violent movie you once saw – chooses you for a “random” full Body Check for apparently no reason at all; you wait for hours on end for your flight eating $8 dollar eggs and washing it down with a $9 beer. From that point forward, I guess it depends on many factors like your age, whatever romantic, professional or other type of relationship you may find yourself in, personal finances and a slew of other things. But in the end, as you walk down the tarmac, pass the stewardess welcoming you and demanding a boarding pass, and stumble through narrow lanes looking for your seat among tight clusters of confused-looking people, the reality that you are about to soar through the open skies and over vast oceans towards a New World in a Steel Bird designed by fallible men just like yourself hits you , and you can’t help but allow the Adrenaline to wash over you like a bucket of freezing water hitting naked skin in the middle of the Arctic. Then it all seems to climax – quite literally – when you look outside the window and find yourself slicing through a sea of clouds some 30,000 feet-high at more than 470 km per hour…at least that is the way I feel whenever I fly. And going to Venezuela was no different.

The decision to flee to that country had come somewhat rashly and during a hectic few months in my life which were antagonized by failed relationships, a dismal professional future and a rather dangerous alcohol-consumption-pattern — a trifecta of disappointment and turmoil that seemed to come together all at once. About three or four months prior, my girlfriend of four years had decided that she’d had enough and called it quits. To be completely honest, problems had been brewing for a few months before that, manifesting themselves in the typical way relationships heading down the crapper do – less calls, less need to be around each other, more arguments over stupider things, etc., etc. So we decided to go to Cuba. We didn’t go to forget our troubles, because I think we pretty much ignored them the entire time, despite how obvious they were. We just wanted to have a vacation together – perhaps subconsciously anticipating the end – and since I was adamant about Cuba (for personal reasons), we chose the enchanted Island. But, in retrospect, I believe that it was that trip that was the culminating event. No relationship – I’ve come to believe – that is already on the rocks has the slimmest chance of surviving if the parties take a trip together; it’s just way too much time for them to spend together alone, usually around alcohol, with no family or friends to deter them from killing each other. In the end, even if you don’t fight, the obvious tension is only boiling in the background like a teapot ready to go off, while you put on a brave face so as to not to embarrass each other in front of your new trip buddies…but eventually it will boil and the steamer will make you go deaf. And that’s just what happened. After a couple of months since our return to Toronto, the wonderful saga that had begun in a sunny summer day during a history class in a high-school four years back, ended just as quickly one cold evening in her bedroom. We had just finished rolling around her sheets one last time – quite passionately and savagely, even with a hint of violence – perhaps instinctively,  because just as we ended, even before we finished cleansing each other’s sweat off one another, we began arguing, and before we knew it, the edifice had crumbled.

Compounded onto this terrible situation was a debilitating bout of unemployment – which hasn’t entirely let up – and which obviously had an impact on my already tattered nerves. I mean, a man can only take so much rejection, romantic or otherwise. At first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t running full-speed ahead to the job-bank; but it didn’t take long to realize that even those who were trying hard were being left behind, university degrees and all. After searching and applying for so many jobs that most of my days would be spent writing cover letters and making half-a-minute phone calls ending in “not at the moment” or, in the best of cases, in an apologetic, “…but go ahead and email us your resume anyway,” I realized that these were times of war, and that I had better bust in the scene kicking, punching, biting and clawing if I had to, lest self-preservation should fail too. Simultaneously, and almost unbeknownst to myself and to most people around me, my alcohol consumption had gotten so out of hand that most events, parties and social gatherings would go by with no trace in my memory. I mean, I know I attended them and that I even acted decently…most of the time. I’d have to be reminded of this, of course, by the people I was with the following day: why we were where we were, or, more generally, what had happened. For the most part, I was told, I would be ok – for a drunk and given the setting, but even then, they’d say, I was dangerously pushing some boundaries. What’s more, I had begun conjuring images in my brain of the violent retribution I would cast against all those bastards who refused to hire me. I was convinced it was due to political reasons – that the swine knew what a young journalist with fire in his belly is capable of, and that they were afraid of it; that they did not want their own incompetence and collusion with ineptitude and corruption made public by a young reporter wanting to hold the whole diseased world by the balls while demanding answers. So, amid these converging assaults on my psyche, it became evident to me that what I needed to do was to get away…to Flee…to leave the whole fucking thing behind in search of a New World of Possibilities…or at least to go somewhere where the booze was cheap enough.

And so the search for countries to visit began. But it wasn’t hard to arrive at Venezuela. Because despite the fact that I was battling very real Monsters – and that I was being both aided and poisoned by alcohol, vengeance and bitterness – I was also solidifying my political views and personality, and as a result everything that had to do with socialism and capitalism – and with Politics in general – had begun to take an important role in my every-day life. I had already visited Cuba, and though it was only a seven-day stretch, I had gathered some good information through thorough and extensive conversations with practically anybody I could find, from bartenders and custodians at hotels to shopkeepers and pedestrians on the street; so going there again would have been a lost opportunity to see and learn about a new place. (As a matter of fact, that was one of the things that strained our relationship while in Cuba: On more than one occasion, I had found it infinitely more interesting to continue my conversation with the bartender regarding life in the Socialist Island while sipping on all-you-can-drink-rum until 5 am rather than playing crazy eights with my girlfriend and a group of Spaniards, Italians and Canadians that we had met at the beach. Though she was much better at keeping her composure and limiting her violent outbursts than I was, she complained quite lively, on more than one occasion, and reminded me that “she was there too”). But I knew I wanted to visit a Latin American country, feeling the need to reconnect with my roots. I would have gone to the Motherland – Ecuador – where Socialist President Correa is also doing amazing things, which family members either living there or in the exterior but frequently visiting, constantly corroborate; but unfortunately there was no job that I could find there through AIESEC, an international agency that places young travelers in different internships across the world — at least none that interested me. But as soon as I saw that Venezuela was an option, I knew I had to end up there, if for nothing else, to find out, once and for all, just how beautiful the women were…and, of course, to personally put to the test this supposed “Dictatorship” the Western Media kept (and keeps) hollering about like desperate sirens looking for lost sea-men. Fortunately, the agency was hurting for English Teachers, for there was a backlog of jobs that had not been filled from a while back for whatever reason – most likely due to lack of organization, which I would unfortunately come to find out was rampant with those goddamn kids. (Later on I also found out that the staff members that work in AIESEC would receive some kind of stipend for every new “contract” they could secure – at least that’s what I understood from what they told me. The stipend was to be put into a pool that was to have various purposes. Among them was giving financial support to interns who, in almost every conceivable possibility, would end up needing it. But many times there were problems accessing this pool of money for one or another shady reason. I suspect this stipend, on top of the need for teachers, was also behind the very rash acceptance of my application). In any event, the T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted – and more alcohol consumed – and before I knew it, I was buying my ticket to Caracas, Venezuela for the 28th of September, 2011.

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As we crossed through a particularly dense cluster of clouds, the reality of the situation dawned on me. Actually, it had begun to dawn on me as I waved goodbye to my parents and brother at the gates and awkwardly made my way through the various checkpoints with what I now know would be way too much baggage to take for a three or even six month period; it continued dawning on me as I ordered a plate of greasy breakfast food for nearly 10 dollars and almost just as quickly threw it back up; but the most real ‘Point of No Return’ dawned on me as the fantastic Steel Bird zoomed forward on the runway and then began pointing its nose upwards, rushing all the limbs and all the blood in my body backwards into the seat as we gradually lost sight of the airport and the streets, until all we could see was just the general outline of the landscape, en route to a country I had never been to and with not even my cell-phone to accompany me (I really forget why I didn’t take it; I think I was afraid of roaming charges). In my previous adventures I had always traveled with my girlfriend, who naturally helped cushion the great blow that being alone in a new country for the first time represents. But this time there was nobody traveling with me. But this not only failed to worry me – it in fact was one of the main things that excited me…And at that altitude, the compounded effect was one of utter ecstasy, completely oblivious to the series of events both wonderful and terrible that would transpire over the next few months.

My first connection was in Huston, Texas, after a two-and-a-half-hour stretch from Toronto’s Pearson Airport. I arrived there sometime in the afternoon, but my connecting flight wasn’t until around 1 or 2 a.m., so I made my way through the colossal airport with my lap-top bag and a carry-on full of some clothes and books, and found somewhere to eat and have a beer, which I knew would be ridiculously expensive, but with five or six hours to wait, I figured I could spare some cash. Before I realized the first couple of hours had passed, however, I was already finishing my 6th or 7th beer and was about $90 lighter. I would have kept drinking, but I just didn’t know if the money I had would be enough to hold me over in Venezuela until my job started paying me – I wasn’t even sure that I wasn’t already under budget – so I decided against it and stumbled to the seat nearest to the gate to wait for the plane, where I met a Mexican man who said he was an engineer traveling to Caracas for the installation of a turbine in some energy plant. He wore a cowboy hat and boots and a denim shirt and jeans, and in the state of mind I was in, he looked just like some kind of Oil Tycoon, and I expected him to yell a “yee-haw” and swing his hat against his knee at any moment, blasting gun-shots from a nickle-plated gun like some cartoon-character…but he never did. I also thought of taking out my notebook to jot some notes down regarding our conversation, which had turned to something about private vs. public management of business, but I was too tired and too buzzed to pretend to care enough, particularly since I was sure I would get the chance again in Venezuela.

We arrived in Caracas after a grueling 5 – 6 hour flight through a turbulent night-sky that kept violently exploding into flashes of lightning and thunderous roars. Nevertheless, at that speed and altitude, a ray of lightning and its accompanying thunder are very special things to see and hear. It’s almost as if someone were slowing the entire scene down to take a picture and then…FLASH!…What was Dark as coal one second explodes into a White-Orange Fluorescent Instant the next, which seems to linger like a Ray of Insight…the entire machine shakes violently and for as long as that moment lingers, the clouds outside the window resemble an Electric Ocean. The whole scene seems to capture a moment of Clarity – of Freedom and of Truth – inside Chaos and Violence…It’s really quite a thing to see. It fills you full of Fear and Excitement, like the first time a beautiful girl lets you slide her underwear down her bare legs and you feel your heart pounding in your ears, knowing exactly what’s going to happen, yet not really knowing at all. Yes, the entire scene is feral and orgasmic…surreal. Then, everything goes dark and quiet again; so calm that a rhythmic drumming coming from within your chest seems to take over the entire cabin, though no one else seems to hear it. At that point, the eerie calmness seems like that moment when you wake up after a slight bout of dreaming where you are falling; when you open your eyes just as you throw your arms and legs about violently, but realize you’re all alone in the dark. The entire flight went like that, moving in and out of those two states: the orgasmic chaos outside the window and the paralytic stillness inside when it was over, at least until I fell asleep, soothed by the rocking of the plane. I met the Mexican man again the following morning after getting off the plane, and after I was duped out of 50 Bolivares Fuertes (BS) for every kg the bag was over. I can’t remember the exact number of Kgs I was over, or how much I paid now, but I remember that it was quite a bit so that I had to make change. Unaware of the double exchange rate and feeling queasy from the beers last night and lack of food and sleep, I went to the first House of Exchange and did the deed  (really there is only one official exchange rate, but the black market is quite prominent in this sector). Just as soon as I stepped away from the window a couple of American tourists enjoying their Golden Years strolling through Caracas in white cargo shorts and straw hats, told me that I had been duped; that, had I looked around just a little bit, I could have found someone who would have bought my dollars for at least twice what I had just gotten. I guess they may have been trying to be nice, but I failed to see the humour in having waited for me to exchange the money before sharing that information, given that I saw them walking around there seconds before and that they had seen me approach the exchange window. In any event, I was in no mood for more disappointments this early, so I thanked them dryly (for their useless information) and went on my way to pay my fines. It was while taking our belts, shoes and other metallic objects off to pass through the security check once more to board the plane going to Barquisimeto that I met the Mexican man again. I told him what had happened and he gave me the same run-around as the American couple as he let out a big laugh – a mixture of incredulity and pity. Then we chatted some more as we took our possessions and moved on. The time was around 7:00 a.m., and the next flight was scheduled for 8 a.m., so we decided to go have some breakfast at a little place that stood directly in front of the boarding tarmac.

However, here we received our first taste of what unfortunately has come to be known as an unofficial Latin-American Tradition – the tardiness and informality with which most events are treated. Within about twenty minutes, a message came on saying that the plane would not be arriving until 8:30. Fine,I thought, no big deal. Then a second one came on about 15 minutes later moving that time to 9 a.m. At 9, as a mob was starting to form around the young, attractive stewardess with lost eyes standing by the tarmac, a third message came on saying 10 o’clock. This would continue to happen two or three more times – each time riling up the mob more and more , causing outbursts like “what the fuck…here comes another hour wait!” and “who the hell do they think they are?!? People have places to get to!” I was genuinely angry, but for some reason this didn’t really seem to faze me. Perhaps it was because I knew what would happen within about 45 minutes from the time the plane got there and we boarded; or perhaps it was because I was just so tired; or perhaps it had to do with the fact that the Mexican man had kindly decided to pay for my breakfast after hearing how I had been taken by the thugs in the Exchange House. In any case, when the plane finally got there around noon, I calmly boarded the plane and wished the man good luck with his enterprise and looked for my seat.

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I kept my eyes open just long enough to see the roads disappear behind the clouds, and then I dozed off for about an hour. I woke up as I felt the tires hitting the ground at Jacinto Lara International Airport in Barquisimeto. When I stepped outside I took a deep sigh, relieved to have finally arrived and having gotten that long and arduous trip over and done with. Then I took another one – longer this time – as I thought (in a mix of Panic and Excitement) about everything that was to come…Particularly about what the hell the people that were supposed to meet me looked like.

MY ADVENTURE IN THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA (INTRO: ROUGH)

INTRO: A QUICK GLANCE AT THE PEOPLE, LAND AND SEA; FULL SPEED AHEAD AND NO WINDOWS; THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN MAKES A POETIC DEATH-BED

It was a dream-turned-reality from which I could not awake. Every day was a unique and surreal experience – it was like being in a roller-coaster that took me high up as often as it plunged me downwards. There was madness in all directions, and I constantly had the feeling that at any point something could happen – be it an unforeseen trip to the beach, a drunken all-nighter at the Local Bar, or a political protest overtaking the streets. And it is this volatility that made the experience unforgettable and something to be woven into the quilts of time immemorial.

The everyday life of Venezuelans seems, to me, to be lived in a constant kind of tension and movement, except on Sundays, when after three or four in the afternoon most streets look like ghosts-towns because everything closes. According to what I was told, this is due to something called La Ley Seca (the dry law), which forbids any booze being sold on Sundays and most commercial activity ends extremely early. As always, however, the reality is different, and knowing how to look you can find what you need at any-time, anywhere. In any case, the whole Chavez Phenomenon, for better or worse, has created a transcending energy that has everyone on their toes and ready to give this or that opinion, about anything! It’s easy to get narrowed into a political debate, but it won’t always end nicely. However, despite the obvious political tension, there is also a pulsating alertness in every Venezuelan:  No time for the slow-walker, no time for the car fumbling with the signal lights! You hurry to cross and avoid the old, blue Chevy speeding down the curve, or the barrage of motorcycle-taxis cutting-off the Chevy…Learning to cross the streets is perhaps one of the first things you have to learn as soon as you get there – that and how to get otra cerveza, if you are not a Spanish-speaker.

It was these kinds of small details that made the trip interesting and exhilarating. Every-day life was a curious and fantastic high-speed experiment.

I remember the first day that I decided to move around Barquisimeto alone, without the help of Gabo, the kid with whom I ended up bunking (him and his family) for about two weeks before I found my own apartment. By this time I had already been warned about what areas not to visit because of the danger and at what time to avoid going out altogether (around nighttime, so between 7 and 9 pm, it was advised that I not travel alone, and that if I must, that I do so by marked taxi only). By this time I had also ridden in the taxis and carreritas – larger dilapidated station wagons painted a faint and rusting blue or green and running on fumes and good will. There could be up to seven or eight people jammed in there, sometimes having to leave the trunk doors wide open so that the people could fit a little more comfortably – and I use that term very loosely.  I had also ridden in the rutas – buses just about one and a half times’ the size of a large van, in the same pitiful condition the carreritas were in, and jammed to the very balls nine of out 10 times.

Riding these beasts is quite an experience for anyone who has never been in a Latin American country, or in any poor country around the world, for that matter. I’m not one of those people, but even I had to get used to it. If you sit at the back you will surely be breathing in fumes that will leave you disorientated by the time you get out; and that is if you manage to muddle through the sea of sweaty and noisy people that sway from side to side as the ruta violently avoids traffic jams by cutting in through wedges between cars and motorcycles that the regular, cautious and prudent motorist of even the smallest vehicle would avoid at once to wait instead for a clear and safe opening. The movements are brisk and violent, but even the oldest Venezuelan grandmother gracefully sways her body with the car without the remotest effort, all the while talking to whomever is beside her about this or that, whether they know each other or not. Even sitting down is an ordeal because you are so close to each other, that you can feel the fucking bowel movements of the fool in front of you holding on to the bars above him…Venezuela is, among the Latin American countries which are already known for their beautiful women, one of the most prestigious for having women that to us, regular folk, seem like they were chiselled directly by the hand of god; having them rub up against you isn’t the problem…the problem comes when the sweaty, 200+pound mastodon keeps shifting around and trying to get himself comfortable in the one place he is sure to sweat the most, perhaps develop a rash…But nothing, not even the looming possibility of being mugged, beats the candor and freedom that a bus ride is in Venezuela, with every window opened wide, the warm but powerful breeze hitting your dampen face and neck while in the background the bus dances to the beat of the streets, the constant chattering of the people, and the booming Latin music blasting out of the radio all the way up front but audible even at the back. (Almost everyone I met, Leftist, Rightist and the odd one that didn’t give a shit about politics, told me that mugging is a very real issue, but their accounts of the frequency and real level of danger all differed. Those who were against Chavez painted a picture of a Sodom or Gomorrah – I remember one day one of the kids I was traveling with quickly told the rest of the group and myself, who was lost in the scenery outside my window, to quickly get out of the bus; once outside he told us that he had seen that one of the two kids that had gotten inside the bus was wearing a gun under his belt, which became barely visible as he sat down. At the moment I was alarmed and relieved that we had escaped an ugly situation. But in retrospect, after everything I can now say I know or at least have a better, more personal understanding of, I wouldn’t put it far past them to have told me something like that to scare me and try to convince me of the hell they said they lived through because of the president; but I just don’t know either way.)

Anyway, the first time that I traveled alone was therefore obviously quite an experience, almost as exhilarating and frightening as the first day of junior high or high-school, when the voice hasn’t quite fully developed and the acne hasn’t fully cleared, but despite all the odds you are hell-bent on leaving your goddamn mark.  I had all my directions and numbers to contact in case of an emergency written down and tucked safely, as was the copy of my passport and money. I had a breakfast of arepas, a very traditional flour-based tortilla that Venezuelans seem to eat almost as frequently as they breathe. They were good but never my favourite out of the plethora of dishes that the best doñas, family-restaurants and sidewalk vendors had to offer. And unless they were fully stuffed with some kind of cheese, rice, meat, vegetable or all of the above, they weren’t that filling either. So I topped it off with a couple of beers and a smoke and went on my way to the corner to grab the carrerita whose number I now forget. Well, there isn’t much to be said about the experience itself; it was not much different than what I finished describing in detail above, but for the fact that it was the first time I went alone. It isn’t a big deal to the experienced traveller, and though I consider myself having some personal world experience to back my talk and walk, the first time that you get in the back of a taxi with only two working doors that have to be violently pushed open from the inside while the driver fumbles with the clutch to keep the car going, your very first thought isn’t comfort or safety. Though later, as you zoom at 130 km per hour down the highway with the back doors wide open at the top and bottom, your legs hanging outside and the car behind you coming so close before he switches lanes that you can almost touch; the music in the ambience so alive that you couldn’t believe it is 7 in the morning and that the sun could be this bright; the individuals in the car talking among themselves and including you in the conversation despite the fact that no one knows each other; the driver tapping his arm to the music and joining the conversation from time to time, if not with opinions then with obscene and hilarious jokes that relax the political tension behind the radio messages from the President or the Opposition parties interrupting the music; with the range of mountains adorning the side…With all this going on, you just tend to forget you are in a foreign country, supposedly at the whim of the criminal, one of which could be sitting beside you and you just…Let Go…

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Work was work and will always be work anywhere in the world. Other than over-stringent rules – most of which were broken daily – and occasional run-ins with the directors for a few minor infractions, work was enjoyable. So I did it with enthusiasm where it mattered, but at certain points every emotion ceases, and sometimes it was hard to draw more enthusiasm from a dry well.

Teaching English takes a real teacher – or teaching anything, for that matter. Someone who has a real gift for it, who has the patience and the charisma to get through to young and sometimes obtuse minds, and I wasn’t one of those persons. I enjoyed many of my conversations with the students. It was refreshing to see many people put in their hardest efforts to learn another language, something which I dare not do.  People of all ages, genders and professions – from young secondary students to Business men and women and absolutely everything in between – showed off their skills admirably…Yet, the job was simply far better done and enjoyed by other Profesores, both Venezuelan and interns alike, who seemed to have a better grasp on things of this matter and who seemed to excel at it. At first, almost with a cynical idealism, I was determined to get through to all these people, particularly because they were being duped, in my opinion, into paying ridiculous amounts of money for their kids or themselves to learn English, and they did it happily and on time because it was a private enterprise and therefore had to be efficient and worth it. When I came across the first stubborn minds I did not weaken in faith; I was resolute in getting through. I tried being as approachable as possible, as direct and articulate, and when I did not know the best way to explain something, I asked one of the better teachers. But alas, sometimes you need a bulldozer to crack open a peanut, and I refused to learn to drive one. I quickly found out that I did not have the patience to try to teach something to somebody who either doesn’t want to learn or simply cannot understand quickly; the same cynicism (or naiveté?), I believe, that fueled me at the beginning burned me out. So I learned teaching is not my thing and that if these people couldn’t learn – especially if they didn’t want to learn – then I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it, and that’s when I began having more fun at work, enjoying every second I wasn’t in those small rooms that looked like the interrogation rooms in the movies, with mirrors and everything. It would damage my reputation to go into detail regarding how I and the other Professionals enjoyed that free time…but imagination was always a better thing than reality…

The time away from work, however, the few hours we had to ourselves, were far better spent. No snow-blizzards like the one roaring outside my window [when I originally wrote this] stopped you from going to a party here or there, at this or that person’s house, in this or that park, at absolutely anytime and with no specific half-life. I met young minds like mine from all over the place, and a certain special thanks go to all those special ones who listened to more than I actually said, and who know who they are. Some of my most memorable and perhaps even criminal memories are of the many wild nights that were spent in hazy dances of Friendship and Lust, fueled by strong drink, powerful marijuana and an intoxicating sense of Freedom that left everyone feeling vulnerable and trapped in a state of Trust – in a Trance you could not shake yourself awake from…at least until the Music finally stopped. It seemed like the world was literally a phone call or a Facebook message away, always ready to enjoy Rum, Noise and an invisible but pervading Energy that seemed to emanate from the intestines of the City and inebriate everyone. These were definitely places to let loose and lose control – if only for as long as the moon stayed bright.

But there is so much more to Venezuela than its wonderful parties and invigorated and wild youth. There is a world to explore in this vast and mountainous land. Everything from the morning walks to work, stopping to eat Empanadas at any kiosk or small establishment, to trips to the beach early in the morning and back before the Sun hid as you enjoyed that last trace of a fiery and melancholic sky, to trips that took all night and half the next day, through mountains and valleys and dilapidated towns, to arrive at a place that looks like a postcard…every action and any opportunity sparked flames in all directions and you had a feeling that Freedom was something tangible, something to be held and clutched into Gold, or to see Glowing in the Night-Sky…

One of the most beautiful places I visited was a great canvas of golden sand as far as your eyes could stretch your imagination, only interrupted sporadically by what a dear friend told me was something she’d never seen in other deserts that she’d visited in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt – shrubs and small trees propping up from within the sand like slender fingers. Now this was a real desert: we walked a good hour or so into the bowels of the sandy oasis with no way of anticipating the end. There were huge sand hills erected like breasts of a Giant Golden Goddess lying naked on the ground, and every time we reached the top of we rejoiced as if we were discoverers…but there were many goddesses. About 45 minutes (North?) of the desert was a beach called Pedicora (pedicoda?). The water was a deep blue and amazingly tepid, and the sand white as paper. The Caribbean Sea, at that very moment and under that very Sun, became, to me, a monument to the Freedom and Fear I simultaneously felt; its seemingly endless waters were menacing but inviting, and I would not have cared if I had made a bed at the bottom of the Ocean for the rest of my days.

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21st Century (R)Evolution

October 7, 2012

A Call to Action is one of those almost-legendary Callings that most of us may go a lifetime without ever hearing. And I mean a “CALL TO ACTION” – a real chance to be an integral part of something big, perhaps even bigger than ourselves. And the reason why most of us may never hear it is because those Causes are so radical and revolutionary by their very nature, that calling people into action often doesn’t happen with banners and fire-works, in public-squares, so as to gather all the Revolutionaries en masse.Just think about the cornerstones of our history that revolutionized the way of life for generations to come, often times, lamentably, through Violent and Armed Rebellions and Wars – and always with spilled blood from both Combatant and Innocent, who are always victims of even the most Just Causes. We’re talking about examples such…

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Nueve de Octubre – UN ARTÍCULO ESCRITO POR CARLOS MANUEL ÁLVAREZ

ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL: Nueve de octubre.

Cuando yo nací, el Che Guevara ya estaba muerto y su retrato había aparecido en la portada de la revista Life. Hay, ciertamente, pocos rostros tan impresionantes como los rostros de este hombre. Contadas imágenes o palabras provocan una compresión y un sobrecogimiento semejantes a los que sobrevienen con esas fotografías en las que siempre, sea en una posición u otra, en este o en aquel país, como un secreto que no resiste más, se deja ver la estampa misma de la sugestión.

Perdonen la confidencia, pero yo he llegado a su persona desde los terrenos más pueriles, desde las situaciones menos épicas. En caso de que quieran decir algo, ¿qué es lo que dicen los rostros del Che? ¿Hacia dónde, por ejemplo, miraba aquella tarde de 1960 en que Korda lo tomó desprevenido y lo incrustó con fiereza en todas las banderas y todos los pulóveres del mundo?

Los sucesos de La Coubre complementan las connotaciones dramáticas que por sí solas se desprenden de su cara, y hacen que olvidemos algo. El Che observaba los cadáveres, el mar de cubanos rabiosos, el hecho consumado y sin retroceso, el hombre envuelto en el vertiginoso remolino de la historia, el paso del tiempo, las víctimas como causa, pero también como azar, y así, sin que hayamos reparado nunca, la inmanencia le viene porque no mira la guerra con la gravedad o la cercanía de los estadistas, sino con la gravedad o la cercanía de los poetas. El Che era el Che, y era, además, Byron.

Hoy no. Hoy es otra cosa. Y esa condición oblicua no es exactamente la que prende en los eternos rebeldes, en las descafeinadas barricadas contemporáneas, en los adolescentes incendiarios. Los héroes corren dos riesgos gravísimos, siempre latentes. Primero: el hecho de sobrevivir a su propia heroicidad. Segundo: el hecho de no sobrevivirla. Primero: el hecho de que se les mitifique en vida. Segundo: el hecho de que se les mitifique en muerte. Todos los mitos son malos arquetipos de mitos anteriores, los cuales, a su vez, fueron reproducidos sobre el mito de Prometeo, tan falaz.

Los grandes hombres no son grandes hombres. Sus actos íntimos son comunes. Sus actos públicos y sus actos históricos también. Pero tampoco son sujetos de esquina. (No dejen, estudiantes, que los engañen con ninguna de estas farsas.) El Che recorre el continente en moto, y no podía sospechar, tan muchacho como era, que ese viaje era un viaje sin retroceso, un trayecto sin fin. En primera instancia, recorrer Latinoamérica es una acción natural que muchos otros han hecho antes y después.

El Che no sabrá nunca que terminará en México y, por más que se lo haya pensado madrugadas enteras, no sabrá tampoco cómo es que cae en la Sierra Maestra, y después en La Habana, y luego en la ONU, y más tarde en el Congo, y Europa del Este, y de nuevo La Habana, y casi finalmente Bolivia, y por último la muerte, y con la muerte el símbolo que es. Así como otros entran al ruedo del crimen, o de la diplomacia, o del aburrimiento, en algún momento el Che Guevara entró al ruedo de las epopeyas. Un ruedo, en esencia, igual a los demás. Si el crimen cambia la vida de unos pocos, la diplomacia la vida de nadie, y el aburrimiento la vida personal, las epopeyas cambian la vida de millones de personas, y esa es, visto así, la única diferencia, puramente cuantitativa.

Sin embargo, hay otro rasgo distintivo: el rasgo poético. Que no se define en los hechos, sino en el pensamiento. No se define en subir al Granma, sino en la decisión de subir al Granma. No se define en irse a Bolivia, sino en convencerse de que es imprescindible irse a Bolivia, y que para ello tan solo se cuenta con lo que cuenta el resto. Es decir, un cuerpo y un ideal (todos tenemos un ideal, por mezquino que sea). Que tus actos individuales tengan una finalidad colectiva es la verdadera distinción de estos hombres. Entender el destino de la humanidad como tu destino. O darle, en suma, esa explicación.

Lo que hace héroe al héroe es la completa disposición hacia empresas que rebasan sus límites físicos de sujetos normales. Lo que los hace sujetos normales es que a pesar de subordinar la realidad a pretensiones impensadas por el resto, no pueden hacer otra cosa que iniciar las revoluciones de cero, paso a paso, casi inconscientemente, con la misma inexplicable y ordinaria secuencia que alguien comienza un libro, o planifica un atraco, o termina una casa. ¿En qué momento justo los héroes se convierten en héroes? En ninguno. No hay, a pesar de las efemérides, momentos justos. Los héroes se convierten en héroes en el momento que se explican poéticamente. ¿Qué hay, pues, más épico que un poeta? Pero también, ¿qué hay más absurdo?

El asesinato del Che marca el fin de una época, y no deja de ser un acto ejecutado por un rapaz subalterno, un gatillo llevado hacia atrás por un don nadie. Cuando se mitifiquen las ideas, siempre tan férreas, y no los hechos, siempre tan manipulables, entenderemos a plenitud esa aparente contradicción.

La retórica pública establece un orden falso, lleno de imprecisiones y alarmantemente vacío de luminosos detalles. Tres mínimas escenas hacen que para mí el resto de la vida del Che adquiera las connotaciones que supuestamente se pide que tenga. Las tres son en los meses finales de su vida.

La primera cuando le dice a Aleida March, antes de irse para Bolivia, que eso es lo único que le puede dejar, lo único íntimamente suyo. ¿Qué? Una cinta con su voz, donde se escucha un poema de Vallejo y otro de Neruda. Pensemos en todo lo que el Che ha vivido, pensemos en el hombre que se ha ido convirtiendo, en todo lo que ha viajado y en toda la política internacional que ha hecho. Y pensemos luego en cómo lo único íntimamente suyo son esos versos escritos por otros, a esas alturas escritos por nadie.

La segunda ya en Bolivia, en plena guerrilla, cuando se aparta y trepa en un árbol y se roba tiempo para revisar un libro.

Y la tercera, escena que no aparece en ningún lugar, y que no es la fotografía bíblica con ojos entrecerrados de la revista Life, son esos segundos finales en los que el Che yace amarrado en un piso de tierra, de una casa presumiblemente de adobe, sucio, barbudo, en el corazón de la selva sudamericana, definitivamente por el suelo sus utopías, segundos en los que el mundo lo ha dejado solo, segundos en los que no recibe los aplausos de la Asamblea General, segundos durante los cuales nadie marcha por ninguna ciudad con su rostro en ninguna bandera, segundos en los que nadie llega y paga unos dólares y dice hágame el favor de tatuarme al Che Guevara, segundos en los que adelgaza considerablemente, pero no sufre hambre, segundos en los que sueña, en los que se vuelve intermitente y duro como una roca, en los que ni siquiera descubren sus huesos, en los que su guerrilla ya no existe, en los que piensa en Rosario o en sus hijos o, tal como aseguró, en Cuba, aun cuando no sepamos si en verdad lo hizo, segundos en los que sabe que va a morir a manos de vulgares soldados y sabe además que no existe ninguna escapatoria.

Nada de esto lo he aprendido en los oradores de devoción gratuita. El Che es el único muerto que no me parece muerto, pero que duele como si lo acabaran de rematar.

“Lies, Half Truths and Bias: The World’s Media and the Venezuelan Election” – AN ARTICLE BY JORGE MARTIN

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/media_venezuela_election.htm

“THE MASS MEDIA INTERNATIONALLY ARE OWNED AND CONTROLLED BY A FEW MONOPOLY GROUPS, WHICH ARE IN TURNED LINKED TO MAJOR BUSINESS CONGLOMERATES. THEY HAVE CHOSEN THEIR SIDE IN THIS BATTLE.WE HAVE CHOSEN OURS.”    [EMPHASIS ADDED].

Once again there has been a remarkably well coordinated campaign of disinformation regarding the Venezuelan presidential elections on Sunday October 7.

The whole of the world’s media has more or less followed the same script: A tired, sick autocratic caudillo (military dictator), Chavez, is facing the young, dynamic, democratic, centre-left candidate of the united opposition. While Chavez is squandering the country’s oil money, Capriles would maintain the social programs but bring efficiency to them. While there is no scope for fraud, the campaign has not been free and fair. Chavez commands hysterical support from the mobs in few big rallies, while Capriles has criss-crossed the country getting his message across to a population thirsty for change. The opinion polls are allegedly showing a technical draw, while some in the last week have shown Capriles to be ahead. Capriles supporters have faced violence from the chavista mob, but the opposition candidate has kept his cool. Chavez has threatened civil war if he loses, while Capriles is the candidate of peace.

Every single one of these sentences, which are taken literally from the appalling media coverage of the Venezuelan elections, is either completely false (a straight lie), extremely one-sided, or a biased comment passing as information.

The “autocratic caudillo” (The Economist headline was “The Autocrat and the Ballot Box”) has been elected and ratified in over a dozen electoral contests in the last 14 years. The “young centre-left democratic and dynamic” candidate of the opposition participated in the April 2002 coup against democracy (as did all of the parties in his MUD coalition), fainted twice at the beginning of the campaign, and when elected governor of Miranda launched an assault on the very social programs he know claims to support. He is not even really that young, at 40 years of age.

Several journalists from state-owned and community media have been assaulted at meetings of the “democratic” and “peaceful” opposition, though you will not hear about that in the world’s leading newspapers.

Of the 18 opinion polls carried out in September, 14 give Chavez as a victor and his average lead is 12 percentage points over Capriles (UK Academics Call for End to Media Misrepresentation about Polls in Venezuela’s Election). How this can be presented as a “technical draw” is anybody’s guess.

When Chavez said that the real plan of the opposition (as revealed by a number of high profile opposition figures) was a neoliberal austerity package and that its implementation would lead to a civil war, he was just basing himself on the historical precedent of the Caracazo uprising in 1989. The media decided to present the comment as “Chavez threatens civil war if he loses election”.

El Pais in Spain has been particularly vicious in its attacks on Chavez whom they describe as a “Mesiah”, a “TV preacher” and a “rock star”. It even offered an open editorial space to Capriles to explain his program (Quiero hablares del futuro). We wonder whether the same space was offered to the other candidate, in the interest of fairness and balance. Somehow I fear that was not the case. We should not be surprised though, as this is the paper which on April 13, 2002 showed its true colours with an editorial comment in favour of the oligarchic coup which briefly removed president Chavez (Golpe a un caudillo).

A special prize must go to The Independent in Britain who, on the day after the huge final election rally of Chavez (which filled 7 enormous avenues in Caracas), had the headline “Chavez finally meets his match“, illustrated with pictures of Henrique Capriles and not a single reference to Chavez’s rally. This is the same paper that on August 16 2004 announced Chavez was “losing his grip on power” as “mid-morning polls” showed him losing the recall referendum (Venezuela’s Chavez on brink of referendum defeat), when in fact Chavez won by 59% to 41%.

Of course, it is perhaps The Guardian / Observer reporter Rory Carroll who wins the overall prize for the most biased article with his Chavez: people’s hero in final showdown. Just to quote the opening paragraph: “The ailing Venezuelan leader still commands hysterical devotion from his supporters, but Henrique Capriles, his younger, healthier opponent in next Sunday’s election, is snapping hard at his heels.” He continues in the same vein: “Huge crowds mob the presidential candidate… They surround his bus, chanting his name … they scream and surge forward, desperate to embrace him.”

The only impression one can get from reading Carroll’s article is that those who support Chavez are mad and ignorant. There is a subtle arrogant dismissal of the ability of poor and working class people to have informed political views that is combined with a very British upper class dismissal of the genuine enthusiasm people feel for the political process in Venezuela. Carroll, of course, has a long track record of distorting the news about Venezuela.

The reason why a majority of the Venezuelans, and particularly amongst those from the working class and the poor, support Chavez enthusiastically (not hysterically), is easy to understand. He has challenged the powerful ruling class and imperialism and has delivered tangible, concrete improvement in their living conditions. The poor do not support Chavez because they are crazy, as one would think from the Carroll’s choice of words, but because unemployment has halved, GDP per capita doubled, infant mortality halved, poverty decreased by two thirds, illiteracy been eradicated and hundreds of thousands have gained access to the education system, amongst other things (as even the Guardian is forced toreluctantly admit).

This is why they are enthusiastic. For the first time in their lives they can see that direct participation in politics does change something. They feel that the future is in their own hands and not in the hands of professional politicians, lawyers, judges and learnt journalists.

All of this has been achieved despite the repeated attempts of the ruling class and the so-called “democratic” opposition to overthrow the democratically elected government by all means at their disposal (military coups, oil lock out, sabotage of the economy, hoarding of basic products, rioting in the streets, Colombian paramilitaries, etc).

True, there are many shortcomings of the Bolivarian revolution. Yes, there is a bureaucracy at all levels which acts as a break to the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses and this constitutes a real threat to the revolution itself. However, particularly in the second part of the election campaign, the Bolivarian masses have been mobilized on the clear understanding that a victory for the opposition would mean the destruction of all the gains of the revolution.

A victory for Chavez will necessarily have to be followed by a very critical appraisal of what remains to be done and how to accomplish it. The activists of the Bolivarian movement, particularly amongst the working class, will be at the forefront of trying to complete the revolution brushing aside all the obstacles which stand in their way, including the “Bolivarian” bureaucracy itself.

The campaign of the media ignores all these facts, or brushes them aside as irrelevant. It conveniently ignores the track record of the opposition, uncritically accepts and fosters its claim to be democratic and even center-left.

The aim of this concerted media campaign is clear: to mould the world’s public opinion. To create the impression that Chavez will not and cannot win the election. To imply therefore that if he wins then it must have been through by foul means. The idea is to delegitimize the October 7 elections as a true expression of the will of the Venezuelan people. This is not just a question of manipulating public opinion though. There have been many indications, open and veiled, that the real plan of the opposition on October 7, knowing they will not win the election, is to cry fraud and create chaos in the streets. The world’s biggest media outlets are clearly part of this campaign.

None of this should really surprise us though. What we are witnessing in Venezuela is, at bottom, the struggle between irreconcilable class interests. On the one hand are the rich and powerful, the oligarchy, the owners of the means of production, the banks, the land, the food production and distribution chain and the mass media. On the other, the workers, the urban poor, the peasants.

Capriles’ article in El Pais was very revealing in this respect. It reads like a sales brochure for Venezuela. He is in fact selling the country to potential EU investors and particularly Spanish companies which have powerful interests in Latin America. “No more expropriations, no more confiscations,” he says in bold and he promises to “guarantee an environment of confidence for national and international investors”. If he wins the election, he promises, he will “deepen economic relations with the EU” and “guarantee the safety of investors”. This is his real program, as opposed to the “centre-left” promises which the mass media is highlighting. He is the candidate of the Venezuelan and foreign capitalists and in this article he was speaking to his real target audience, the people whose interests he would serve if elected.

The Financial Times, while repeating the same script as the rest of the media (to the point of calling Chavez garrulous), is also more frank in the interests it defends. Its target audience is not the mass of the population, but those who count: managers and directors of big companies, investors and speculators. They describe Capriles as a “business friendly law graduate,” and crucially analyse how a victory for the opposition would bring lower oil prices (The Venezuelan solution for oil prices). One of the achievements of Chavez’s policies has been to strengthen OPEC and thus bring higher oil prices which benefit producing countries with higher revenues. In the case of Venezuela, this has been used to fund social programs which even the FT is forced to admit have benefited the poor majority. Imperialism would like to break up or weaken the cartel of producing countries. This in itself is a powerful reason why imperialism would like to see Chavez gone.

The mass media internationally are owned and controlled by a few monopoly groups, which are in turned linked to major business conglomerates. They have chosen their side in this battle. We have chosen ours. The scandalous way in which they abandon any pretence at fair and balanced reporting shows that they understand a lot is at stake in this election. We should actively denounce them and uncover their lies, because in that way we are also advancing our own interests.

“WHAT HAVE I BECOME?” ASKED THE BROKEN MAN

October 7, 2012

A Call to Action is one of those almost-legendary Callings that most of us may go a lifetime without ever hearing. And I mean a “CALL TO ACTION” – a real chance to be an integral part of something big, perhaps even bigger than ourselves. And the reason why most of us may never hear it is because those Causes are so radical and revolutionary by their very nature, that calling people into action often doesn’t happen with banners and fire-works, in public-squares, so as to gather all the Revolutionaries en masse.Just think about the cornerstones of our history that revolutionized the way of life for generations to come, often times, lamentably, through Violent and Armed Rebellions and Wars – and always with spilled blood from both Combatant and Innocent, who are always victims of even the most Just Causes. We’re talking about examples such as (among others) the French, Bolshevik, and Cuban Revolutions; not to mention the necessity for clandestine operations surrounding the birth and growth of Socialism itself. And not all these “cornerstones” have had to be benevolent – let us never forget Nazi Germany!

Life for people that lived through such momentous times as the few examples I’ve just given, must certainly have not come without tension and daily fear. But for those who were balls-deep within The Cause – not just the People, the common citizen, but the intellectuals, revolutionaries, thinkers, scientists, organized laborers, unionists, and even the parts of the People that had prepared either intellectually or by taking up arms in order to actively further or defend each one of those causes mentioned, which because they were so revolutionary and obviously critical of the status-quo were feared and always repressed, mostly violently – for those people, life mostly consisted of clandestine meetings in uncomfortable places, often distanced from their families and with the looming threat of imprisonment or death hanging over their heads with their every move like a Noose. When the Calling came for these people, they didn’t hesitate and at once they packed their things and left everything behind in search of their destiny. I’ve met many people of the opinion that these revolutionaries are “heartless” for leaving children behind to be raised without Fathers and without Mothers (because the reality is that Strong Women have always been behind Revolutionary Movements, even if it weren’t publicly known or accepted). But the True Revolutionaries knew, in their hearts, that the Cause is above all, and that the true and unconditional love they had for their children could most aptly be expressed through their own death for a Future of Hope and Freedom for not only their offspring but for those of the world…Or so I’d like to believe, anyway. I can’t, in good faith, ascertain that every Revolutionary and Comrade of The Cause never trembled when the Calling came; or that he never hesitated in leaving his/her family behind, possibly forever; or that they never waited for the “next Calling” so that they may go at it accompanied…But I’d like to believe that it weren’t so…

Today, with The Cause apparently reaching a Momentous Crest atop a Rising Wave, the need for clandestine operations among comrades just doesn’t seem essential anymore. I’m remembering an article I wrote for the magazine not too long ago where I cited something similar: streets flooded with Occupy Movements across world; Protests against tuition hikes, austerity measures and rampant unemployment by students, labourers and the working and lower classes almost quite literally in every corner of the world; Rebellion in the Middle East against tyrants and economic oppression (although the authenticity of all the movements and events that have transpired over the last few years in that Region must be analyzed closely and case by case, because they are not all Popular in the socio-political sense of the word – think Libya!); and finally, the 21st Century Socialism that is sweeping Latin America. Yes, these are all signs that The Cause is indeed on its way! And because of that, I think the need for activities of a subversive nature to be carried out clandestinely is simply not there anymore.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t happen and, more importantly, I certainly don’t mean to say that it shouldn’t happen. In fact, in many places around the world, such as in Colombia, for example, where the Revolutionary FARC-EP still operates, somewhat clandestine operations are still necessary in the face of the strong counter-revolutionary forces at work. But in the general sense – in terms of what the public has access to and freedom to do and even legal leverages to utilize if one is serious enough – today, there is no major fear of imprisonment for attending rallies or peaceful demonstrations. Actually, as I write this I realize that I have to be extremely careful with my words, because the only thing that doesn’t seem to happen anymore is the Open and Blatant Persecution of people of different Ideologies by purging homes, institutions and public places. Because as far as repression, imprisonment and illegal tactics used to quiet or discredit peaceful protests go, even Canada – supposedly the fair and less abusive cousin of The Empire (in this case I mean the USA, but in the rest of the paper, by The Empire I’m referring to all those countries, institutions, bodies, etc., that support and further Capitalism, including The United Nations) – has fallen into that hole. Let us not forget the very recent imprisonment of hundreds of people due to Protests in front of the White House stemming from Environmental Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipelines; and the legislative bullying the Conservative Stranglehold in Canada has demonstrated by passing such ridiculously insulting and unconstitutional pieces of legislation like Bill-C38 to strip independent Environmental Review Bodies of their authorities and powers to oppose Pipeline Deal in order to give those same powers to the Federal Government while masquerading them as “Budget Omnibus Bills.” Yes…I can’t believe I had already begun to forget this when I was typing, a few lines up, that there isn’t major political repression today. GODDAMN, I MUST BE LOSING MY MIND!

But that is beside the point, to be quite honest; a digression. What I wanted to get to was that today, the Communist Party in a place like Canada, regardless of the fact that it may be a bit weak in numbers, has full rights to demonstrate in the streets for causes it holds dear to its ideology, like for example The Empire’s Belligerency towards the rest of the world in an attempt to secure various resources – Oil, among the most important. And on Saturday October 6, 2012, The Party had organized a rally in Queen’s Park in Opposition to The Empire’s involvement in Syria, and to call for Peace and Solidarity with the Syrian people. There was to be a march for about an hour or so and then a Public Speaking at Trinity Square, I believe, or something along those lines. The Young Communist League was also to attend. Well, as a subscriber to the Communist Party, I received an e-mail on Friday making me aware of the event the next day. My Calling, as it were.

My first reaction was positive: I was thinking that I would pack a camera, a pen and a pad of paper, my voice recorder, a few beers and a couple of joints in my bag early the next day and head downtown. Since I live a bit far I’d have to take the bus, so I’d have to wake up a bit early, but nothing out of the ordinary, so none of that bothered me. But then, I’m sad to say, I felt that I would function better accompanied, so I texted a cousin of mine to see if he wanted to go. He told me that he would get back to me, because he had a date that night and did not know exactly where he would end up the following day. Well, of course, no problem at all, I thought; I would never get in the way of that pursuit…after all, even the Greats like Marx and ‘Che’ took time off from writing their critiques and fomenting their Revolutions to pursue the Other Great Cause: Tail. But he called early on Saturday and said that he’d come with, and so things seemed to fall right into place.

Unfortunately, a few hours later, as I was getting ready, he texted me again, telling me that his sister had woken up extremely sick, and that they were heading over to the hospital. My first reaction was obviously to ask how she was or if they knew what the deal was, because she is my cousin, after all, and we are all a Very Tight Unit. But they didn’t know; they were just heading to the hospital at that very moment, so we all agreed that they would keep me updated. After a few minutes, when the initial shock from hearing something like that about a family member had begun to subdue, I realized that I was set to go to the Rally alone…and then – just like the Worms and Vermin that I criticize for being Spineless and only doing that which is convenient to them, completely divorced from any Conviction that could move them to act in the Face of Personal Physical and Emotional Turmoil and Discomfort – I also folded and I stopped getting ready. I simply didn’t want to go alone.

I tried consoling myself by telling myself that it was better that I didn’t go anyway since we were going to have family over, including a few aunts and uncles and a little cousin, which all arrived not more than an hour later. And that since my mom was preparing a nice dinner for everyone, it would be better to stay here rather than go to the Rally, since afterwards, when it would all be over, the plan was to hit a strip joint and kill some brain cells with excessive amounts of alcohol and god knows what else (that’s why I was taking paper and pen to takes notes and a voice recorder to account for EVERYTHING when garbled memories and crude flashbacks would be all we had to help us piece that disjointed night together). So I told myself that it was a good thing that I wasn’t going; that it was better to stay here with the family, especially since my Father was so keen on me staying to talk with the adults and participate with the Family. Yes, I told myself all of this…but in the end I kept feeling like a Scumbag.

And I still do…somewhat. My opportunity to “Foment Revolution,” as I proudly state I want to do in my profile, came and went yesterday in the flutter of a bird’s wings…and I let it waft over me. All because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable; because I didn’t want to go to it alone….But in the end, I regret nothing!

I remember that many people close to me and whose opinions really matter to me have, on more than one occasion, repeated those words (regardless of the fact that every half-wit and imbecile in the world can repeat it and pretend that they really believe in it and that they live their life accordingly). But the message isn’t lost in me. And although I did allow a moment of weakness to drown me in the Mud with the Worms and Vermin, my Convictions remain strong. I have myself to beat myself up for that transgression and violation of my Ideals. If my grandfather were alive, he’d be livid with indignation at such pusillanimity as I showed. But he would just as soon recover the color in his face and he would stop yelling and tell me, “Well, there’s one solution only…you stop your bitching and next time you GO!…THE CAUSE ISN’T DEAD BECAUSE OF ONE MOMENT OF WEAKNESS, SOPENCO!”

So here I sit, a bit disillusioned with myself because I thought I’d be stronger than that, but certain that my Convictions and Ideals have not faltered or even budged; that the only thing that I need to do is put on my big-boy pants, one Huge Testicle at the time, and continue Trudging Ahead for The Cause. And next time I receive the Calling, I will not think twice before Answering, even if it means I must Die Alone – or, less dramatically, just attend a goddamn Rally Alone!

That’s where I will leave it; with High Hopes for the Future…

SHALOM!

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HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE!

PATRIA, SOCIALISMO O MUERTE!