Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
Entering ancient Jerez, we passed a modern Fundador sign, the world-famous brand of Jerez, (sherry in English).
We continued into the city to visit the magnificent Catedral de Jerez.
We departed Cordoba early and drove fast to Seville, where we had breakfast in a sidewalk café.
We then took a city tour in a horse-drawn carriage: Cathedral, Alcazar.
Mailyn, Elaiza and I walked around town. Many tame but shy and skinny cats roamed the streets.
Mailyn wanted to eat paella with ink of squid sauce and no shells. We found a place and I tried to explain in Spanish--they went to extra effort to serve but the shrimp was served with the shells intact-- shells still on shrimp. Mailyn sent it back. I had three glasses of vino tinto de la casa and was OK with it.
The next day, the girls took a city tour in what was once Europe’s greatest city and the center of Western Islam. The architecture is a mix of Islam, Christian and medieval Europe.
I remember when I would come here to attend the bullfights and to hear the stories of the great Matador de Toros, Manolete.
Mailyn and I went out for tapas in the evening and walked across the bridge over the Guadalquiver.
We left Madrid early to stop in Toledo. I wanted to buy gold filigree bracelets, rings, earrings, and necklaces for Mailyn, Emily and Elaiza.
We walked around town -- quaint, narrow cobblestone streets. Waiting for the cathedral to open we had churros for breakfast at a small restaurant opening onto the street -- the girls liked a dog they met there.
Overwhelming experience touring the Catedral de Toledo to see the Virgen del Tesoro, the first statue of St Mary brought to Toledo in the 12th century and also Virgen del Sagrario and Virgen Blanco from the 13th century. We were issued a ticket for parking illegally.
We continued by car to Cordoba where we checked in to a lovely three-bedroom, two-story private apartment directly overlooking the Guadalquiver River.
Picasso paintings at the Madrid Barajas Airport were photo-bombed by Emily and Elaiza upon arrival. Our Los Angeles-Chicago-Madrid on Iberia Airlines had been cancelled; we were rerouted direct LAX-MAD, however, our luggage had been sent to London after the long flight delay in Los Angeles.
In Madrid we picked up a Toyota Advance 1.8 rental car and Mailyn drove us to Hotel Senator on Gran Via downtown Madrid. We walked around Plaza del Sol. Early the next morning we walked along Gran Via to the Plaza Major and the Prado to visit with Goya, Velazquez, Bosch.
I posed by the statue of Cervantes for a photo; Don Quixote is one of my favorite novels. Years ago, a friend gave me the book in original Spanish and told me that when I could understand it, I could understand Spain.
We passed the hotel where I used to stay when in Madrid. Barack Obama had been staying there, well-guarded by many police on motorcycles.
The girls took a tour to El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos) and Franco’s Tomb. When I lived in Spain, I was told that Spaniards liked to preserve Franco’s tomb “So when we stand on his grave we are sure that he is dead.”
Our luggage had finally arrived and Mailyn could change her high heels for walking shoes. We went shopping on Gran Via—bought a red leather jacket and blue spandex jacket for her.
Back at the hotel a huge celebration passed in the street below our window, the largest LGBTQ parade in Europe, over 2 million revelers. Emily hung their multi-colored flag from our window.
We went out for tapas at Txapela, our favorite bar in Madrid, with Rioja vino tinto.
F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (My second favorite)
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Perhaps the most frequently quoted final sentence. One of those endings that suggests the opposite of an ending: you may want to "move on", but you keep getting taken back to the story you thought you'd finished. Bugs me. My daughter Emily and I walk around quoting and twisting this message.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
This is the terrible one because, by the time you get to it, you realize how inevitable it is. Winston Smith's fate is not just to be defeated, but to have his will turned to submission. "He loved Big Brother." Bothers me as I think now about 2024 so far into future let alone 2084! I read the novel in 1964 and did not understand, but now I do. The world is more of a mess than even Orwell could have imagined.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
"After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain."
At the end of this novel of love and war, hope and desperation, all passion is spent. The narrator's lover has died in childbirth and the only possible conclusion is one of those perfect Hemingway sentences, expressively drained of expressiveness. I have been there and done that. But then sang “Dancing in the Rain” walking the streets in Spain where Hemingway once lived.
We must wander into French for one of the most discussed final sayings in fiction. "'Cela est bien dit,' répondit Candide, 'mais il faut cultiver notre jardin'."
After everything absurd and horrific that they have seen, after travelling the globe to witness the extremes of human folly and cruelty, Candide recommends a little horticulture. Endless ink has been spent explaining what Voltaire was "saying". I translate as “Whatever, let’s just go work in our garden.”
Franz Kafka, The Trial
The ultimate finality, the moment of the protagonist's death. As a knife twists in his heart, Josef K realizes that it is the victim who is ashamed, not the perpetrator. "'Like a dog!' he said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him." In German, wie ein Hund. I keep re-reading in original German. I see new things every time from a different perspective. Kafka inspires me yet drives me nuts.
Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable
"Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
Tom Anthony, Rebels of Mindanao
“I like the feel of the earth in my hands, and you will be teaching our child. You have already planted the seed.”
Multiple news sources reported multiple incidents of multiple shots from multiple guns fired from multiple vehicles resulting in multiple fatalities and multiple injuries with multiple search warrants and multiple counts of murder filed.
Multiple hotel guests across multiple continents around the globe filed multiple allegations with multiple police units reporting multiple sexual assaults and multiple stabbings.
Multiple passengers on multiple international flights were killed in multiple crashes being investigated by multiple authorities.
Multiple victims were killed in a multi-state shooting spree wounding multiple others with
Multiple media outlets report multiple legislators fighting multiple battles on multiple fronts in the face of multiple calls to resign, in spite of multiple year stock market highs following multiple bull and bear cycles defined by multiple sites on multiple platforms.
The above multiples I heard in multiple reports this week. This is driving me nuts.
What's next? A weather report of multiple raindrops falling on multiple homes in multiple neighborhoods?
Whatever happened to several, many, seven, lots of, numerous, profusion, crowd, quite a few, gobs, array, pecks, twenty-nine, oodles, swarm, cloud, heaps or hordes?
Reporters: please keep multiples for mathematics!
Sometimes instead of my 3.1 mile walk I will bike both ways on my tricycle with the big rear basket--in which I once hauled daughters Emily and then Elaiza around town-- 6.2 miles, stopping at my garden on the way.
I always have a mission—to inspire myself.
Here is today’s report.
Zero dark 645 cross the line of departure (left home).
Stopped at end of block to collect a full bucket of finely chewed dirt spit up by squirrels burrowing--great soil. I had previously identified this target.
Biked up Delaware Street to California Street.
Stopped at garage storage beside my garden and integrated kitchen scraps I had brought with me into the compost pile.
Loaded a big axe and pick into the basket along with a big bucket.
Mounted back up and rode up to Garfield Street where I had located a pine tree that years ago had been cut off at ground level and a dozen small sprouts of new pine trees had developed (fragmentation). I attacked with the axe and pick and rescued the pine tree sprouts.
Returned to the storage area by the garden, parked and served CA state required notices about bed bugs to the tenants. Maruska from Prague answered the door at Unit 1. We talked a bit about her dogs, Cody and Laska, who both obviously like me better than her. (Or perhaps equally). Her given name is “Marie.” We discovered both our mothers and both our grandmothers were named “Marie” (pronounced “Maria” in Central Europe). Marie is Elaiza’s middle name.
Planted three bean seeds and harvested nine small tomatoes. Watered and cultivated the onions.
Took my diaries for the years 1971-1979 out of storage to bring home—I’m thinking about something.
Back home I planted the rescued fragmented pine tree sprouts with the squirrel-chewed dirt in a vase on the deck.
Fried an egg for breakfast and started my day.
Blood Ivory rightly holds an evil connotation.
An infamous act of cruelty and sin today, when I was in Africa in the late ‘70s, ivory was just another valuable harvest of the hunt. Like hunting rabbits for meat and fur during Autumn in Ohio.
At the time, I was Marketing Manager- Europe, Africa, and Middle East for Firestone International, based in London. On occasion, I would travel with the Southern Africa Area Sales Rep, Gerry M., to call on our distributors. I liked to visit Cameroon, and flew in to the port city of Doula, which I found more interesting and modern than the capital, Yaounde. The locals we met with spoke several local dialects, fluent French and good English. Even some radio stations broadcast in English, sometimes with a bit too literal translation from the dialects—in one report I remember an announcer speaking perfectly in Her Majesty’s English “…a city official was arrested after having been observed vigorously fucking his personal assistant.”
The Firestone Distributor there, Mr. O., was also the leader of his tribe north of Douala on the border with Nigeria. Mr. O. was brilliant, funny and a man of his people. We were driven around Douala with him in his chauffeured limousine. His business was located in Douala rather than in the capital because here he was close to the port and the road north took him back to his tribe. He took us up there to show us around. On the way, we stopped for lunch on the black sand beaches at Limbe with Mont Cameroon visible in the near distance.
After lunch, we drove north to Kumba, then off the highway and into his village. Along a narrow dirt road toward the Nigerian border we passed waist-high stacks of elephant tusks along the road, recently ‘harvested” and waiting to be picked up. Some of them were literally bloody. Mr. O. and his people were proud of the harvest and explained the hunt and the value of different tusks.
Gerry and I had little to say. It was not our culture and none of our business. People today feel differently and things have changed. I see on today’s map the region is now labeled “Protected Area”.
We returned to Doula and the next day and I flew on to Senegal for my next business call on a distributor.
Later in the year, Gerry called on me at our headquarters in London and presented me with a hand-carved ivory lion. He said, “Tom, this is not a gift, I paid US $50 dollars for it, but I think you should have it.” I reimbursed him. Gerry gave me an official receipt for it in the amount of 125,000 Cameroon Franc, the equivalent of US$ 350-- its true value “for insurance purposes.” All this was legal and rather common practice, then.
I still have the ivory lion—can’t bring back the elephant slaughtered for it, but I hope this story will teach the value of endangered species by showing how callously we thought then, unknowingly.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and has been for 3,000 years.
I may have been the only American Catholic wearing the uniform of the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, during the summer of 1989. It is quite a story, especially since I also once wore the uniform of the US Army and was integrated into the German army (Bundeswehr) at another time. I am the only person I know who was in all three.
With the IDF, I was a civilian contractor working for a US company to flat-proof tires for combat vehicles. The Synair Corporation of Chattanooga, Tennessee, had the technology and my company was a dealer in the US. I tried to sell it to the US military but they would only put the concept into testing. I met with the Israeli defense mission in New York and presented my offer, explaining that their brothers were dying when their tires would be shot out in Gaza and another vehicle would have to go there to rescue—and get their tires shot out in turn. My counterpart was skeptical of my small company competing with big corporations for the deal. When they asked me how long it would take to put into operation, I answered “a thousand years” using the only Hebrew word I had learned for the presentation, meaning a thousand years…If you do not sign the deal. He asked me who would go to Israel and supervise the turn-key operation, and when I said I would do it personally, he paused, went to discuss with someone, returned and said, “We will open the letter of credit to start the transfer of the technology.”
I arranged for Synair to ship the equipment and materials to Haifa and bought a one way ticket on El Al from Montreal to Tel Aviv departing a few weeks later, allowing time for the shipment to arrive by air from Newark. I had some business to do in Canada and did not know how long I would stay in Israel. I could always buy a return ticket there, maybe Swiss Air, and spend some time in Europe before going back to Reno where I then lived.
I had trouble with the El Al security team in Montreal. I was suspiciously travelling on a one-way ticket, and when they inspected my baggage and found pressure gauges, rubber hoses and strange, sharp metal tools they put me through a detailed screening several times by different agents until I said, “I am going to Israel to work with the IDF! If you do not believe me, call the Israeli Defense Mission to the USA in New York!”
I arrived in Tel Aviv in the late evening and was greeted by the Captain in the IDF who would be my point of contact. He took me downtown for dinner and a bottle of wine. We talked about the mission and the equipment involved, which he informed me had arrived and was secured in a nearby air force base. He had inspected it and as we talked, I became confused—what he was describing did not meet the description of what I had shipped. The next day, now a few hours away, I was supposed to set up the equipment. I asked that we go immediately to inspect.
The Air Force base was locked down for the night, but my escort officer explained I was an American here on a special project and we had to get into a warehouse. The warehouse was locked; we broke in through a back window assisted by the armed guard after we explained the situation.
The equipment was not what I expected. In an error in logistics, a competing Goodyear system had been shipped. Goodyear had also bid on the job, won it at first, but then lost it when I agreed to fly immediately to Tel Aviv to set up my equipment. But somebody had shipped the wrong container.
We opened the container and laid out the equipment. The Goodyear flat-proofing process was similar in theory to Synair’s, but different enough to confuse me. I made calls to Chattanooga, made notes and decided to teach classes on safety the first day to the technicians who were now arriving in from their field units. After this day of procrastination, I got help from chemists and engineers in the IDF.
In the next days some things went wrong. There was a high pressure burst and alcohol was sprayed into the eyes of some technicians. I tackled one soldier jumping around in pain and poured water into his eyes. It was a big mess.
Over the course of the week, we figured out the Goodyear equipment and used our materials to bullet- proof tires. Dusty jeeps drove in from combat in Gaza for emergency installations.
Over the next few weeks I connected with my comrades. I recalled with them the history of Mickey Marcus, another West Pointer (like me), who left New York to establish the IDF in 1948 under Ben-Gurion. He had died there, accidentally shot by one of his own men. I was taught to say “Jews” and not “Jewish” and met Jews from several countries who were in Israel to serve. On the air base, aircraft had their engines running all the time because they had only seven minutes to take off and intercept an enemy bomber coming in from Syria.
Toward the end of my stay the IDF General who was in charge of logistics in the 1967 war did a walk through. He knew the story of my problems with setting up the flat-proofing equipment—it was his engineers who helped me. He asked me what my rank had been in the US Army; I told him “Captain” and he said, ”Well, I guess that makes you a Captain in the IDF!” He handed me an IDF uniform with Captain’s insignia that I still have and although I have no documents for a battlefield commission and know I was not really an IDF officer, I feel like one.
I did not have much trouble with Israeli airport security on the return flight when they opened my bags and saw my uniform.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.