Friday, June 13, 2003


Raven is trying to scrunch up my black boina small enough to get it to stay on his tiny head.

Rave, I just don’t think it’s going to work. You will have to commemorate the 75th birthday of Che Guevara some other way.

“Phooey. If anyone is the New Bird—it’s me.”

We are going to have people reading poems and parts of Che’s diaries and I think we might even have a cake. Your wearing the boina would really be a superfluous touch. Try pinning a star to one of your feathers.

“Savage. That’s what you are. I don’t suggest you poke holes in yourself.”

It’s not much different from putting a barrette in my hair, guy. You’re over-reacting.

Raven sniffs, offended.

You don’t have to be a star, baby—to be in my life. This is the time to remember Che—and others who have had the now increasingly rare habit of standing up for their principles and beliefs.

“I suppose. What kind of cake did you say we were having?”

When I looked at the chronology of Che’s life that Lucinda had written for us on the whiteboard, I thought about how carefully Che’s life has been picked over:


tu vida atrapada
como mariposa por un aguja—
pero ¡vuelas, vuelas!


your life trapped
like a butterfly by a needle—
but you fly, you fly!


Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Yesterday Raven nearly deafened me, but he also entertained me--in the highest sense--with his translation of a little part of Hugo Chávez' comments from Sunday's "Aló Presidente". We think it's important that more people read the text, as the little part that was picked up my the news services was very distorted. It begins with a few lines from a song:

“I’m not a little gold coin that everybody likes.
I was born this way and I am this way.
Those who don’t like me—too bad.”

I am not, nor am trying to be a little gold coin. Some people don’t like my wart, but is it my fault I was born with that wart? I am not going to get rid of it. Some people don’t like my big lips—well, I was born with them, and how is that my fault? Some people don’t like my eyes because they aren’t blue—this is the way they are: eyes of the savannah--the color of the honey of the Aricas, said a writer. Some people don’t like my hair because it is curly—because it’s not blond and straight. This is the way I was born: I’m ugly—well, black or black with Indian—that’s the way I am. I’m not refined or anything—I’m a little crude sometimes—but how is that my fault? That’s the way I am and will always be—I’m not going to change; I am almost 49—how am I going to change? Some people don’t like my ideas, they don’t like the bolivarian revolution, they don’t like nationalism. Some may have the idea as one leader of the opposition said—well, a pseudo-leader—said in those days of the lock-out—they asked him what his aspirations for Venezuela were, and he said that he dreamed that Venezuela would become Miami Beach: “I dream of Miami Beach here in Venezuela.”

Okay, there are people who have their mind set on another country or another way of life—they would like those of us who are black, brown, indians mixed with white and so forth to disappear and that there would be an elite society. That’s fascism. There are others who have different political ideas and those are respected—some of you aren’t in agreement with Ch?vez and I respect your reasons—even those that seem absurd—that’s okay—everybody has his own heart and mind. Those who would like everybody to be white with green eyes—that’s okay—it’s their problem—but our little world here is made up of blacks and whites and yellows and browns and mixes—that’s the way we are and that’s how we’ll continue to be. Thanks be to God that the world is like that. We respect white people with green eyes—they’re our brothers. No one can be racist there or here.

No, no—we are all equal before God, before the law. There can’t be privileges nor distinctions by race or color. Some people don’t like it that I talk about Christ the way I do. Well, I conceive of him that way; some people see him as weak and foolis; Christ is no fool—Christ for me is a revolutionary, a man who goes around with the people fighting for justice. Some people don’t like me to say that Christ is a revolutionary—because they have a much more middle-class idea of Christ. How could Christ have been middle class if he was born in a stable? Christ was born in a stable, the son of a carpenter and the Virgin Mary and he grew up among poor kids and died crucified. Who crucified him? The powers that be of that time—the fascists of that time crucified our King and Lord and Commander in Chief, Jesus of Nazareth. Some people don’t like it that I talk this way about Jesus—they say I am sinning. Okay—I respect them because there are some who like to go to church; I almost never go to church—I don’t have time. I pray though—what I am saying now is my prayer. I love the Lord and I go around with Him and we go around in the streets, in the roads fighting for the people. That’s my Christ—I love him that way; I don’t like to see him crucified and with the fool’s face they put on him sometimes. My Christ goes around in the streets, goes around alive, not dead and crucified. Some people don’t like this; I respect their ideas.

Okay, I respect whatever difference with Ch?vez or with the idea of Ch?vez. Some people don’t like my idea about the economy, the participation of the State. I am not a communist—if I were a communist you can be sure I would say so. I don’t have hairs in my tongue, I’m not going to be hiding stuff—no. I haven’t even studied communism; even being a communist—if I were one—in this moment in Venezuela the project can’t be communist….Fidel Castro, my friend and brother, is a communist—but the project of Venezuela isn’t communist. It’s written here for whoever wants to know the economic project—in the Constitution….There are some Venezuelans—some of whom have doctorates and so forth that believe Ch?vez is pushing Venezuela towards communism, but they have been mislead. I am a nationalist, a revolutionary, a bolivariano—that’s me, I like that ideological classification—bolivariano is an ideological definition—a healthy nationalism, latin american internationalism, unity—these are some of the ideological lines which I navigate with—the same as Jesus.

**No tengo pelos en la lengua--literally I don't have hairs in my tongue--is an expression in Spanish that means I say exactly what I mean.

****Raven wants to add this description of himself that he found on eBay (his reward for the labor of translating):

In the spiritual world he is a bird who brings protection, a messenger, he warns the forces of light of oncoming destruction and battle therefore giving us the power to guard and time for preparation... he has the ability to see into the past, the future, and beyond the veil of death. He has the great ability to travel from this world to the next.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Raven is sitting in front of the computer screen, speakers blasting out the voice of Hugo Chávez.

Gee, Rave. You couldn’t make him any louder, could you?

“Hey”, Raven turns down the volume, “I thought he was The Leo of Your Dreams?”

He is, but I’m not completely deaf yet.

“When you figure out how to get some headphones to fit on my head, I won’t have to use the speakers anymore. I love this speech—where he says he’s not a little gold coin that everybody likes. But he stole my thunder, though.”

Really, guy—someone stole the thunder of the bird who stole the sun and the moon and stars and put them in the sky so that we have light?

“The bird who used to be white and who turned black going up the smoke hole with the sun, the moon and the stars.”

Oh oh. Rave, where is this going?

“You know Chávez. He said: “I’m ugly—black, not refined or anything—a little crude sometimes. Doesn’t that sound like your friendly neighborhood Raven?”

You’re not ugly! Black, well yes—obviously. Crude—sometimes. I see what you mean that he stole SOME of your thunder.

“He even said he wasn’t a communist.”

Has someone accused you of being one lately, Rave?

“Not since the 50s. Not since Charley McCarthy.”

Rave, I told you before: his name was Joe.

“Whatever.” Raven turns the volume back up. “I love this guy!”

Monday, June 09, 2003


Sometimes you aren’t sure what is the product of your imagination, and what appeared on its own power. Yesterday I read a book by Antonio Skármeta, “La chica del trombón”, in which for at least the second time the author refers to the inhabitants of Gema, an apparently imaginary island in the Adriatic (first in “La boda del poeta”), who immigrate to Chile to escape from wars (a less dramatic version of Swimming to Antarctica….)

In the evening, I went down to my kitchen to make a cup of tea, and discovered a crab on the wall above the stove, almost at intersection of the wall with the ceiling. The crustacean seemed to be looking at me very intently—or maybe crabs only look intently because their eyes are very tiny? At first I thought the crab was an imaginary creature who was somehow a projection of a crab in my interior.

“Ha!” Raven, as usual is reading over my shoulder as I write this. “What a pile of crap: crab in your interior, indeed.”

I didn’t say it WAS; I said that was my first thought.

“Sounds like you were drinking more than tea. Are you sure you even saw SOMETHING?”

Rave, it was a crab. It was about 5 inches across, different shades of orange, and it wiggled its leg at me.

“Waving hello, no doubt. And did you happen to ask how it crawled up the cliff from the beach to your kitchen and then crawled up the wall?”

Not exactly. I asked it what it was up to. That’s when it wiggled its leg. I thought it was a sign, but it wasn’t in my language, so I didn’t understand.

“I think you spend too much time reading fiction. It’s taking over your daily life. Crabs are very tasty; you could have popped it into a pot of boiling water. Isn’t that what you people usually do to crabs?”

Rave, you’re impossible. For somebody so high-minded as you to even suggest killing a fellow creature is shocking. I wasn’t going to kill it. Besides, I’m allergic to shellfish. I just wanted to know its message.

“I’m not an assassin; I’m a scavenger. It’s my nature to know which creatures among the “possibly scavenged” are tasty. Probably there was no message. The creature was confused. All creatures are confused these days. We can’t believe the crazy stuff that’s happening on the planet. Another creature may have invaded its home and run it off. When we start imitating the behavior of your species, anything can happen.”

We’ve been down this road before, guy. I don’t want to take the heat for the nasty stuff some members of my species are up to.

“Fine. Some members of your species want to eliminate all the other species on the planet—not to mention that some members of your species want to eliminate a significant percentage of your own species just because they don’t agree with the Bush Gang. And they're trying to eliminate their historical memory, too, by destroying several thousand years worth of artifacts—so that history doesn’t begin in Sumer, but in a bar in Texas. But you’re not part of that. So what are you doing to stop it?”

I’m trying to raise people’s awareness.

“Great. And the crab? What did you do about it?”

Nothing, Rave. What could I do? I turned off the light and went back upstairs.