CUBA #5

 

 

imgresStarted the day at a farmer’s market. Not usually my favoritething, but this was pretty interesting. Tour guide Marissa gave us some Cuban Pesos (not our usual tourist Cuban Pesos) to spend because this market is for the natives. Lots of Tarot (they make Tarot chips as well as plantain chips. All good) Papaya is called Bomba Fruit. Good conversations in Spanglish.

Then on to an extremely stimulating presentation on post-revolution Cuba. First a look at a slick magazine produced in the studios where we sat, aimed at Cuban/Americans aiming to invest in real estate and art. Its future depends on the embargo going away, though, I think.

The history presenters covered a lot of what we have done before with new angles. But first—Zika. They have a campaign going on to eliminate the virus. The military is going home-by-home and spraying inside and out. You have to let them in. Now back to our program.

The island seems to have health care and education pretty much in hand. Mandatory ed to ninth grade. Then high school/university if you qualify. Maybe trade school or some other kind of specialty school like the arts, etc. if you don’t. End of University—all free—you owe the government 3 years. Men, one year military, two years community service. Women three years community service. Community service is often in your specialty. For example, our Cuban tour guide trained as a French translator. No one wanted one of those, so she became an English language tour guide, a gig she likes better anyhow.

Economics is more difficult. They went over how Guantanamo became ours (a lease which was done at such a low rent, Castro never accepted any money, but still ours. And the Bay of Pigs, and the Missile crisis. And the collapse of the 90’s after the Soviets pulled out, which has led to the present day gradual introduction of more free enterprise. They talked of immigration and the wet-foot-dry-foot rule. If you take one of those rafts and manage to set foot on American soil, you become part of the USA and are eligible for green card and eventual citizenship. If your boat is intercepted before you hit dry land, it’s back to the island for you.

Anyhow, main point is that they pray for lifting of the embargo which is still strangling them, though we must say they remain a vibrant and friendly people with all kinds of energy and creativity.

Our final stop was a modern dance company. We saw an excellent performance, met the founder director of the Cardenas company, and shared a sandwich and conversation with the dancers. The folks we talked to had been dancing since childhood and had always wanted to be and been steered toward dancing. Asked how often they performed, they said it was difficult because of lack of venues in the City. Hard for us to imagine. Just clear out a loft or something. Anyhow, we finally have some free time, so we’re going to use it. Tell you how later.

 

 

 

 

LIVING PAST DREAMS

A.B. Funkhauser and I collaborated on a projected about writing historical fiction. Here’s the link to her website where it’s posted. It’s both rich in content and handsome in design. I’ve reviewed both her books Scooter Nation and Heuer Lost and Found on previous blogs, so check them out by clicking on the images below. As for our words of wisdom re historical fiction, GO HERE NOW!

 

Gonzo Funkauser
A.B. FUNKHAUSER

Heuer Lost and Found - Print

YELLOW ROSE REVIEW FROM DUBLIN

Here’s what Alex Pilalis of Dublin, whose The Awakening of James Island I recently reviewed, thought of The Yellow Rose. Five stars, children!

The Yellow Rose is an impressive, authentic Western, filled with the usual tropes of war and Revolution and romance, but with enough of its own charm to be fresh and new while still feeling familiar. I found it to be a very thrilling read. 

Alex-Pilalis
ALEX PILALIS

The lead, Sam Houston, is a hero straight out of the old westerns, and I could easily see him standing toe to toe with the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Or for a more contemporary comparison, I also saw a bit of Mel Gibson’s Maverick in him too. Especially with his playful interactions with the secondary lead, Emily West, a tough, smart, sexy free woman who’s always far more intelligent than anyone gives her credit. Both characters are very well realised and it was fun and interesting to live with them for the duration of the book. 

The writing is relentlessly authentic, and was a joy to read. I could tell that a lot of research, time, effort and care went into this book, and reading about its history and development raised my appreciation of it even more. 

There is a somewhat jarring shift in voice between the chapters, third person for Sam’s chapters, and first person for Emily’s, but it’s not such an issue that I didn’t become accustomed to it soon enough. I would also have liked for some of the supporting characters to have been fleshed out a bit more, and to have spent a little more time with them, as some seemed like very interesting and complex people, while the focus mostly stayed with Sam and Emily. Aside from a bit of a lull around the middle, the pacing and story keeps moving enough to hold interest and maintain its charm. 

I would highly recommend this book to any lovers of westerns, history, romance, and good old-fashioned frontier fun. 

Thanks for the read!

 

WAKE UP, JAMES.

CoverArtwork_Final_FRONT2Alex Pilalis in The Awakening of James Island hands us over to a chaotic future universe charged with mystery and danger. James is a young man with almost no memory or known history. He works in a fairly menial job at a construction site, but does not know where he came from or what his purpose in life might be. The city where he works is a crossroads of a variety of interplanetary creatures and vehicles that keep him both trepidatious and confused. Soon after we enter the story, an alien named Evan comes into his life in a dramatic fashion I won’t spoil for readers by describing here. Evan claims to know and be responsible for James destiny, but won’t reveal details, and James mistrusts his claim. Multiple harrowing adventures ensue.

Pilalis has a wonderful talent for creating excruciating situations for his many-talented characters and for devising astonishing escapes. Excitement, suspense and surprises await on nearly every page. I wasn’t, however, surprised to find on reading Pilalis’ bio after I’d finished the book that he’s spent considerable time in the video game industry. I could really picture some of those situations he invented coming right out of the small screen, zooming and leaping through and over obstacles  as if someone had a thumb on a controller.

Alex-Pilalis
ALEX PILALIS

One caveat for me was that James himself seemed seldom able to analyze situations or devise his own escapes. I’d have liked him to be a bit more self-sufficient, stronger of mind and body and able to extricate himself from dilemmas instead of having to nearly always depend on others. However, this is the first of a series, and I anticipate he’ll grow as the tale goes on. With that small reservation, I highly recommend this novel and await the sequels.

 

sitting up clapping

SCOOTER NATION

51+mi7lfvnL._AA160_I usually try to come up with a title for these reviews that references, but does not include verbatim the title of the book. This time, I can’t improve on the title, so I say to and about A.B.Funkhauser, great title for an equally great book.

“Scooter” Nation is a nice double-entendre. “Scooter” on the one hand hooks us into Scooter Creighton, one of the main characters in Funkhauser’s debut tale, Heuer, Lost and FoundOn the other hand, another of the novel’s most significant elements involves a fleet of motorized scooters ridden by aggrieved disabled people who zip around protesting both handicapped access and other community political issues.

Gonzo Funkauser
A.B. FUNKHAUSER

Heuer involves the shenanigans of the owners and operators of a family-held mortuary with a tangled web of relationships, both fiscal and personal. Scooter opens with that same mortuary in the hands of the unfortunately-named Jocasta Binns, the main surviving member of the conflicts in Heuer. (Tantalizing glimpse: You find out how Jocasta came by the name of a legendarily incestuous Greek queen.)

Binns is a deeply angry and unhappy Martinet who alienates her staff and family and inspires a rebellion. The tactics of the rebellion could have been carried out only in a funeral home, which makes for great reading. So, as in all of Funkhauser, you see common human interactions carried out in a most uncommon environment.

In my review of Heuer I complimented Funkhauser on her “zesty prose” as well as her characters. Here’s a two-in-one quote that illustrates both.

Enid. . . should have puked all over her shoes. She should have spewed all over Carla too, but she didn’t. . . her guts steadied steadied to a workable calm just like they always did in the face of a threat. 

You’ve got both a reaction on the part of a major character as well as a mirror into her internal life. Furthermore, her emotional responses manifest in real action later in the novel. Thus, the lives of Charley Forsythe and Scooter Creighton and the rest involve us not only in entertaining capers but in deep and meaningful emotions as well. A terrific read with, I understand, a sequel on the way. Keep ’em coming, A.B. And to the rest of you, join the audience.

sitting up clapping