A happy new year to you and all!!!!! I have not survived to 2015 yet. But I made my list of the wonderful and the sad things that had happened in 2014. Fortunately the wonderful list was much longer than the sad list. Two items on that list were you earning your master’s degree and getting the job with Orleans Parish.
Even at my advanced age I learn something new every day. Those of you who know me well know that i spent over 11 years of my life in Britain, Scotland, South Africa and Australia. These countries have a nice tradition of giving everyone an additional day of Christmas holiday falling on 26 December. I always appreciated the day off. I never looked deeply into why I was getting the extra day of holiday. I vaguely assumed that it had something to do with the sport boxing.
A wonderful friend of mine from Ireland named Dave set me straight on 26 December. Boxing Day is a holiday where the elites (ie Downton Abby) prepare small boxes for their servants and low-level employees. These boxes contain leftovers from the Christmas dinner and small gifts.
Yesterday evening Elena and I went to a post Christmas party hosted by Dr. Al and Liz Globus. These people are incredible. They raised five of their own children. After the Rwanda massacre they took in 4 your people from Rwanda and raised them. We had a wonderful time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have made it to Christmas day another year. For that I am thankful!!! I think back 60 years to the mid-1950’s and what Christmas was like then. Dad had served in Europe in World War II. He developed a liking for European foods. He would bring home exotic crackers, cheeses, spreads and meats from one of his advertising clients; European Imports. He and mother would enjoy bourbon with their Christmas eve snack. My sister and I got to drink coke. It was a wonderful family get together time. Dad and mother would allow each of us to open one gift on Christmas eve. We would then go to bed full of excitement. We would awaken at three in the morning and start to open our presents. Later Mom and dad would get up. My dear mother would work hard all day long in the kitchen preparing turkey, dressing and side dishes. Dad would entertain us by taking us to movies or other events around town. Around six in the evening we would sit down at the table at our humble house at 5715 Belarbor Avenue in Houston and have a wonderful Christmas dinner. Christmas was a magical time for us long ago! I hope that young children today have wonderful parents who work hard to help them to experience the magic of Christmas.
Three Ways to Get to Cuba Right Now
How to get onto the island before everyone else does.
The U.S. may be opening diplomatic relations with Cuba, but don’t expect to catch a flight from SFO to Havana just yet. Leisure and tourist travel remains prohibited for the time being, as lifting restrictions for general tourism requires congressional approval. And that’s not likely to happen for a while.
But despair not, Cubanophiles. While you don’t have free rein to relax on the beach with a mojito yet, the policy shift has still managed to liberalize travel and trade with the country, making it easier to get there and more convenient to travel within the country.
President Obama will open general licenses to travel to Cuba for several reasons—public performances, workshops, athletic competitions, human rights and humanitarian work, private foundations or institutions—which previously required a case-by-case review and approval by the government.
The ban of US credit and debit cards has been lifted, making it much easier to spend within the country. Under the new policy, licensed travelers will also be allowed to import up to $400 worth of Cuban goods, including $100 of tobacco and alcohol products. Good news for Cuban cigars and rum!
The US will re-open its embassy in Havana, incentivizing permitted tour companies to increase tours and easing some peoples’ safety concerns. Cuba will also allow the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations human rights officials in the country for the first time in years.
Havana, which has had some of the worst Internet access in the world, has announced it will increase affordable access to its citizens and travelers. Under the new policy, telecommunication providers will now be allowed to establish necessary infrastructure for better Internet.
The lesson for restless travelers? It’s not as easy as flying to Mexico or Costa Rica, but if you want to go, it’s doable and easier than before. And if you want to see Cuba before it transforms, it’s best to experience it before the general tourism ban lifts completely (assuming it happens, of course). These three Bay Area-based operators offer legal, ethical, and immersive trips:
Presidio-based GeoEx offers 8-day custom private trips to Cuba for up to 16 people. Travelers can work with the company to create the perfect itinerary, and land introductions to local historians, artists, and musicians.
The Berkeley nonprofit Ethical Traveler is hosting a 10-day trip in April. Led by local journalist and Ethical Traveler executive director Jeff Greenwald, this tour focuses on art and culture, with visits to Cuba’s studios, galleries, and community art projects, as well as opportunities to collaborate with Cuban artists.
Over in the Mission, the human rights nonprofit Global Exchange has been bringing Americans to Cuba for more than 20 years. Tours connect travelers with organizations in Cuba to see what life if like for locals and hear about current issues on the ground.
Our house was built in 1941. It was a small cottage in those days. I always try to imagine what it was like on Sunday 7 December, 1941.The owners were probably just back from church when they got the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
On cold and dark afternoons I often play my beloved music from the 1940’s. It’s soothing and enjoyable. I started to create a fantasy in my mind. To me 1946 was a magical time for the United States. We had won World War II (with a lot of help from the Russians, British, and Canadians). Our country had suffered little physical damage. The 400,000 Americans killed in combat were a small percentage when compared to the 16 million American men and women who put on uniforms and went to war to fight. At that time our population was around 140 million people. It was probably 3% of the world’s population some 68 years ago. Yet we controlled up to 50% of the world’s wealth. We had a massive industrial base. We had large foreign currency reserves backed with the security of gold held in Fort Knox. Our military was the strongest in the world. We were the only nation with the atomic bomb. We had a wonderful and a wise president in Harry Truman. He was transforming the United States into a true super power. He was also creating social programs to benefit all. One could say without a doubt that we were “on top of the world.”
As I listened to the 1940’s music, I started to create a fantasy like one would find in the Twilight Zone. I was transported from the 21st century to 1946. Elena and I were in the same house. I had graduated from Tulane long ago. I was just back from serving in the US Navy in the Pacific. I am working for an upstart oil company run by some U.C. Berkeley graduates called Chevron. Elena is a graduate of Stanford Medical School (one of the few women to do this without the help of a wealthy father who was also a doctor.) She is an oncologist at U.C.S.F. in San Francisco.
The milk company brings milk,cream and yogurt right to our front door. The local grocery store delivers to us and allows us to pay the account once a month. When I take our large 1946 Buick to the gas station, an attendant appears. Gas is pumped for me. My windshield is cleaned. The hood is opened and my oil and water are checked. My tires are checked. The San Francisco Chronicle is delivered to the door each morning.We often go to cultural events in San Francisco. There are also excellent movie theaters where we watch the latest Hollywood films like The Best Years Of Our Life.
The source of all news and entertainment in the house is the radio.On weekends when we are home it stays on day and night as we listen to our favorite radio programs and the news.
In short the life is very sweet. Elena and I have worked very hard to have what we have. We are also very lucky to live in such a wonderful country.
This Christmas, thanks to Elena’s generosity and the New York Times Book Store, an actual 1946 radio appeared at our house. I was amazed at how small and fragile it is. I can only listen to some AM stations. I now have a little part of my 1946 fantasy with me.
My dear friends Dr. Robert Zubrin just pointed out that today is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. My father fought in that battle under the leadership of General Patton.
Sadly this battle only gets a passing foot note in American history. Battles during our war for independence, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War One and other World War II battles get much more attention.
What a lot of people miss is that this roughly one-month battle was the bloodiest battle in the history of the United States. Official Department of Defense statistics claim that over 81,000 Americans were killed,wounded, missing or captured. In my personal opinion the authorities are embarrassed to admit how bloody and devastating this battle was to US forces. I suspect that the real killed, wounded, captured and missing figures exceeds 100,000.Please take a moment of silence to honor all of the brave American, British and French soldiers who fought during the Battle of the Bulge.
Well said! My two most beloved books of all time are Firefox and Firefox Down by Craig Thomas. This is a novel about an ex-US Air Force fighter pilot named Mitchel Gant . He is shot down in Vietnam. He first witnesses his radar officer killed as he ejected from the plane. He is then captured by the Viet Cong and put in a tiger cage. While in captivity he witnesses an attack on the village by US planes dropping napalm (jellied gasoline). When he is sent back to the US Air Force by the Vietnamese, he resigns as a pilot. He is so traumatized by all of the horror and death that he saw that he goes to live alone in a cabin in the Alaska wilderness. Some years later a large US Air Force helicopter lands right near his cabin. Some officers get out and knock on his front door. They tell him that he has been called back to active duty for a new mission. Gant speaks Russian and has a remarkable resemblance to the chief Russian test pilot. They tell him they are going to insert him into Russia. He is to steal an advanced Russian fighter and fly it to Scotland. Gant gets into Russia and steals the advanced Russian plane.Most of the two volumes concern his escape from Russia. Of course the Russians are firing missiles at him. All sorts of Russian fighter planes try to shoot him down. But all of that is a side show. Most important is what happens to Gant as he tries to escape the Russians. He has flash backs to Vietnam. He blacks out (goes unconscious) a couple of time. He vomits in the cockpit. He always doubts himself and is not very optimistic about making it to Scotland. At the end of the second book when he deploys the landing gear to land in Scotland, I was throwing the book up in the air and had tears in my eyes. It was not because Gant had defeated the Russians. It was because he had defeated himself and all of the doubts and fears inside him.
On Saturday 13 December, 2014 I marked a twenty year anniversary. On that day in 1994 I first met Paul Lir Alexander in Miami at FCI Miami. He was doing a 22-year sentence for importing cocaine. Paul finally agreed to let me write a book about his life. After all of the research I concluded that Paul is the most fascinating man and clever man that I have personally met in my life.
He had been a Mossad agent. He had created an entertainment company in Brasil that managed super stars including Xuxa. He had been a consultant for the CIA and undercover operative for the DEA. While doing all of this he was also a master international drug smuggler who imported as much as $9 billion US worth of cocaine into the US and Australia.
He became a wealthy man with a huge ranch in Brasil, a Hawker Sidley corporate jet, and a mega yacht worth an estimated $25 million dollars.
Paul paid for his illegal activities. He served a little over 17 years in jail before walking away from a work release program in June of 2010. Since then he has vanished from the face of the earth. Some people believe that he’s dead now. I don’t. He is living a very low-key life somewhere in the world.
Please take a moment to Google Paul Lir Alexander.