.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, May 26, 2006

Frustration

Dear All:

I am one UNHAPPY camping blogger, right now.

As you might've read in the previous posts comments section, Renato kindly transmitted my lack of connectivity -- something which has happened since last Friday.

I'm not sure what is happening, but it takes FOREVER to load any page, whether graphics-heavy, or old-fashioned ones, like the low-graphics Google.

Fortunately, I have an ISP chappie coming this Friday, an appointment I've waited for 5 days to have.

Just to highlight my frustration in its starkest terms, guess how long this deucedly simple post took to load and compose?

30 minutes.

Argh!

(I didn't help that this week, my father was unwell and today was at hospital, so my usual forays to the university labs, have necessarily been very much at the back of my mind)

Apologies, my friends. I will try to sort this out soon. I miss you all much.

P.S.: Ehud Olmert's speech rocked. And the Press Conference last night with Tony, was bang on. Sigh. I hate not blogging.

4 PM EDT UPDATE: Yay! I'm back online, and there is a tremendous improvement in the connectivity rate -- super fast now. However, remember my Norberto story? Well, the techie who came to my place was another "The Cuban-American" -- but this time such a rude person, that I'm off to Fourbucks to get a caffe latte to calm myself down. What a jerk. He told me MY computer is old. Old! Well, yes it is. So? So is his mama. Don't get me started.

More later!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saw It

My internet connexion is currently down, and I am logging in from the public library, but I did want to give you my hot off the presses, mind-altering review of the Da Vinci Code. Ready?

"Eh"

What's more, Ronnie Howard's film doesn't even motivate me to write up a real review, apart from that monosyllabic, half-grunt above.

I would say, that like Titanic, it's one of those films one MUST see, if you like to keep up with popular culture. I know I do.

But oddly, considering Dan Brown has gone on the record to say he had certain actors in mind when he was writing the novel (e.g., Inspector Fache - Jean Reno), this clearly cinematically visual book, with its fast pace, if tortured prose, works at times for the viewer...

...and other times is so laughable, as to arrive with a dull little thud -- like a maiden aunt's slap, after you told a midly off-colour joke.

It's not unwatcheable for the first hour, which is precisely when the book is at its best.

But the second and a half, oy.

In fact, the best part of the film were the protesters outside the Muvico Palace 20!

Sweet, innocent little me:

I had no idea the concerted efforts of so many irate Christians, would actually make them come out and line Airport Road (a mile away from the theatre), with white, Kinko's placards, announcing to motorists:

The Da Vinci Code is a Lie!

Look at these youthful stragglers, who managed to avoid the police edict not to come within 300 yards of the theatre.



That was cool.

I beeped the car horn in solidarity, of course, moments before actually eagerly arriving at the movie theatre.

We Christians are nothing if not utterly, beguilingly contradictory.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Premier Way

Sometimes I cannot contain my excitement, my joy, and my sense of wonder about the place I live in -- South Florida.

And thanks to Sundries, this blog of mine, I have been able to escort you around more tangible locales of my haunts and lurks, than those located in my sidebar.

I have a SPECIAL, deeply reverent love of cinema, whose picture palaces of yesteryear, I consider to be almost holy.

But as I have said, Florida is a young State in this young Union.

Its youthful buoyancy may strike some as lacking some of that much-needed grit which only true ancientness can bestow on buildings -- structures you know have been there forever, and like a fond lover, you forgive the sags and blemishes of age.

But I personally love the brand-spanking new, perhaps a rebellious pose of the girl from that mediaeval wonder, Oxford.

The following travellogue is a tribute to the finest moviehouse I know, which has the kind of professional luxuriousness that can only exist in America.

Oh, there are multiplexes all over the world which may rival it in beauty.

But I dare one of you to compare the pampering it offers to its customer, to anything you have near you.

There's a reason The Muvico Palace is very well named.


THE MUVICO PALACE 20 -- THE PREMIER






The Muvico Palace is located in Boca Raton, Florida, home to every little old, well-to-do Jewish man and woman on earth. In fact, when you land in Ben Gurion Airport, there's a sign there that says, "We're all meeting at Irv's in Boca".

When this influx of elderly Jewish people arrived in Boca, after South Beach was no longer inhabitable because Ingrid Caseres didn't have a kosher lounge at Liquid, they needed a place to hang out, and watch a flick.

Thus was born Hamid Hashemi's Muvico empire -- oh irony of ironies, this Iranian immigrant who done good, so good, he was buttah.

Knowing his clientele from the area, which include the gratin from Palm Beach, he built this multiplex, with the specific intent to create the ultimate civilised moviegoing experience, perhaps in the world. Or at least, Schenectady.

When you approach it, from I-95, you are struck again by the fact that almost everything in Florida is designed to look like either a:

1- Golf Course
2- Country Club
3- Hotel Spa and Resort


And boy, did we hit the motherlode with the Muvico Palace 20.







Our journey has many detours, young grasshopper.

And our first, is to explain to you that the Muvico Palace is actually two very different moviehouses, in one.

There's the Muvico Palace downstairs, which is plenty great, and fine on its own.

And then there's the hidden jewel, The Premier. Its purpose? To give you the most exclusive theatre-going experience in your life.

See these two Q-tips lining up outside the Palace Box Office, their bouffant hairdos and trusses going limp in the Florida humidity?

If you decide to plump down for the Premier instead, you'll never have to brave another 99F queue again.

But hang on a minute. Since we're here, let's check out the regular Muvico Palace proper.

With gas prices this high, we might as bleedin' well.







This moviehouse has the Egyptian grandiosity of size of the Muvico Paradise, but its decor more than reminds one of the Muvico Parisian, located not 20 miles away in West Palm Beach.

I really miss King Tut in the foyer, though.







The pizza here is also $6.50, but at least they serve it, and TCBY yoghurt, which I love.

And for those of you without sufficient funds to pay for the Number 4 jumbo-combo, you'll be happy to know there's a pawn shop nearby called the Happy Hocker.

No. I'm not kidding.







Sneak peak! This is a copy of the Premier seats we'll be sitting in, a little later on.

This is the loveseat, which is perfect for make-out sessions (not that I would know that...YET). The individual seat is far roomier, if you can believe that.

One lady, who passed by it as I took the pic, told her husband with that pleading tone women have around Christmas or garage sales, "Oh look, there's the seat they have upstairs. Can't we go one day?".

To which the harried hubby replied, "No."

Husband 1, Wifey 0.







You know from the other Muvicos I have shown you, that this chain offers an amenity I think is pure genius: a nanny service for those families who can't afford a babysitter all the live-long time.

And what's more, it's FREE. Look for yourselves what it offers your young'un.







Computers!

And the kids are all shapes, sizes, races, faces, and socio-economic levels, so that will please even the snooty progressive who wants his kid to mingle with the oppressed hoi-polloi, but doesn't want to risk lice en route to Yale.







I can't get over how clean, safe, and above-all fun this moviehouse romper room looks.

I'm not a parent, unless you count chihuahuas, but I'd trust my kid to be safe in this Playhouse -- wouldn't you with yours?

Dude, they have Legos. 'Nuff said.







But speaking of the huddled masses, yearning to watch Tom Cruise bomb in Mission Impossible III, it's time we were on our true way -- to the Premier section of the Muvico Palace.

The Box Office has its own air-conditioned entrance, giving you the immediate impression that hey, this is a special kind of place, for a special kind of moviegoer.

You. Me. We.







From its teak-panelled walls, to its too tastefully attired attendants (in coats and ties, like sniffy bankers), the Box Office immediately sets the tone that will follow.

Of course, this tone becomes a screech the moment you plunk down the $18 dollars needed for one ticket.

See, it's 9 dollars for an adult ticket downstairs, and 9 dollars for the privilege of being upstairs...since you MUST be over 21 to enter the Premier -- trust me, they card you, especially if you're Jenna Bush.

Yeah, 18 dollars is steep, but for this you get, complimentary valet-parking, and a complimentary bag of popcorn.

They'll even butter it for you, complimentarily.







And I may like to mingle with the rich Jews and WASPS in the Premier, but I'm no snob. Well, not much.

I love Tyler Perry, and was excited to see his latest Madea incarnation during this visit.

Look, I even scanned the tix for you to peruse them. Ain't I thoughtful and rather eccentric? In the nicest possible way, of course.

By the way, like in Europe, and other parts of the world, but almost never in the US (wonder why?), you HAVE to book or choose your seat.

You can even call up ahead, give your credit/debit card details, and they'll reserve it for you -- for a .75 cent fee --, which is a MUST during the weekends.

I like to sit near the balcony in row D, since it's fun to throw popcorn on the poor folk downstairs.







Quick, who has any "Up the Down Staircase" jokes? As if Erica Jong weren't a joke all on her lonesome.

(Oops. Bel Kaufman wrote that, not Miz Jong. But you've read one feminist in existential angst, you've read them all)







Okay, so this is what I do when I arrive at the Premier, itself.

I go to the "bistro" area, and peruse to see if there is a table available for me to dine. The hostess usually tells you how long, and frankly, usually it's too packed for my liking.







So, then, I go to the bar area, and order me a wonderful Boca burger, or chicken cacciatore dinner.

They give you a remote-control-looking thingie, which jingles like a mutha when your order is ready. This takes about 20-30 minutes, so obviously, one vegs until then.








And this is one of the Premier Lounges, where you do your vegging.

They have about 3 or 4 areas, all of them with comfy leather sofas and recliners, and the best part, this mammoth TV you see here, usually turned onto the Miami Heat.

The Q-Tips don't get half ticked off when I turn the channel to Fox News. I don't see why, since so many of them voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000.







In case you get peckish, you can also head to the Concessions stand, and get your freebie bag of popcorn.

But now you know why it was necessary to card you downstairs, since you can actually buy a bottle of Crystal or Moet et Chandon champers, to imbibe.

Only back home, in England or on the continent, have I had the chance to get soused during a play, or a film.

This is the first, and so far, only place I know of here in the US, that one may buy a Bud or Corona, and drink it whilst watching your picture.

I don't drink, but I make a POINT to, when I come to the Premier, just because it's so cool to get drunk whilst doing something you love. I feel like Christopher Hitchens.

My tipple of choice is Sam Adams. Best American non-microbrewed beer, by far.







Oh, did I mention that the Premier is brought to you by Lexus, as the popcorn bag proclaims? The toilets are brought to you by the Ford Pinto, because they're a piece of crap.







Okay, your remote-thingie is now jingling and lighting up, and you have to pick up your food, to take to your seat.

You can ask for help with your dishes, cutlery, popcorn and glasses of vino, but there is a protocol, apparently, just like at the Car Wash.

The black, aproned waiters can take your food to the red-vested ushers, and then the usher takes you and your food to your seat.

The aproned ones cannot walk in front of you, but the usher can. I have no clue why, but it impresses the heck out of me.







My mother laughed at this fake tapestry, although I liked it.

It gives the corridors a certain glamour, plus you can practise lobbing popcorn at the heads of the young shepherdesses.







I have noticed the ushers barely look at your tickets, so you can probably sneak around to another film, once yours is over.

Not that I EVER ever do that, of course.

I like the whole old-fashioned concept of the usher, however, since part of the magic of the old picturepalaces, was the usher or usherette leading you to your seat, with their torch (flashlight).

The only thing that is missing is the candy or cigarette girl, wearing sheer nylons, asking your boyfriend if his Mars bar is nice and stiff, the cow.







This is the inner sanctum called the Ladies powder room.

I expect all gentlemen reading this to cover their eyes. This ain't no Porky's or Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

(So far, our travellogue would not differ from many picturehouses in Europe, but American washrooms are usually bereft of those most ubiquitous of staffers -- the washroom attendant. Consequently, no tip, how ever meagre, is expected from you to them. The bad news is that there are valets downstairs all too eager to rob you of that hard-earned fifsky)







This is the perfunctory shot of the auditorium entryway -- it's no big shakes, even if that trompe l'oeil banister along the walls is nicely done (although my mother laughed at it, all the same. Tough crowd).







None of the shots of inside the actual theatre, came out, so instead I offer the last vista of the Premier interior.

It's actually my favourite statue, this Winged Victory in the throes of either ecstacy or agony, I'm not sure.

Either way, it encapsulates everything the Premier wants to offer its patrons -- a kind of to-the-manor-borness, which is used to the very best, and yet is always asking for more.

Remember, the rich are never satisfied with what they have, and that's why they are rich, and we're not.

Give most people a bag of greasy popcorn, some Twizzlers, and a tub of Coke, and they consider that a great night out at the movies.

Well, I may not be rich, but in America, no one asks you how big your bank account is.

If you have the 18 bucks, you're in. If not, save.







I noticed that the valet guys come in all shapes and colours, but there is a definite curiosity about each level of staffer at the Muvico Palace.

Box Office -- male, and white
Waiters -- female/male, and white
Ushers -- male, and African or Haitian American
Managers -- female, black and white
Valet -- male, black and white and "Hispanic"


Not sure I want to know why. I just want my frikkin' car.







Here we are, your last stop of your wonderful, elegant, and very expensive visit to the Premier.

What with your 18.00 or 18.75 ticket, your 30 dollar meal, your 5 dollar glass of booze, your assorted tips totalling about 5-10 bucks, you just spent 70 dollars per person, for the best night out at the movies in your life.

It's not cheap, but believe me, it's worth it.

Every time you can have a civilised, select, adult experience in this hectic, mass-marketed, youth-oriented world, it's worth blowing your 401K.

...and now you know where I'll be, this Friday, 19th May, 2006 at almost midnight.

At the Premier, watching the Da Vinci Code, sipping my glass of Sam Adams, and eating my meatloaf sandwich.

A votre santé!


RELATED TRAVELLOGUES


MUVICO PARADISE 24

MUVICO PARISIAN 20

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teehee Da Vinci Code

Apparently, the lovingly-anticipated, Dan Brown novella to screen adaptation, the Da Vinci Code, bombed dramatically to a sold-out critics audience at the Cannes Film Festival, this Wednesday night.

I am teeheeing because though I had plunked down $18.75 * to watch this film on Friday night at 11:20 PM EST, I am secretly delighted its airy-fairy premise has left even the secular French jaded, in the film's "reveal" climax moment.



In India, in fact, there are several protests in Bombay, and other places, from Christian groups (especially Roman Catholics, which are considered part of the intellectual elite iof India, since many Orders have control of upper-class "convent" schools like the über-preppy Cathedral School).

The film is even being held up, but it is thought a last-minute compromise, will set the debut date to jibe with the rest of the world -- 19 May.

Thailand's courts already reversed a ruling which had seen many edits to the film, so you can see this is no laughing matter to the many outraged people out there -- such as, in fact, my mother -- who will be skipping the Da Vinci Code in protest.

I don't believe in protests, as a rule, and though I have perenially noted on this blog, that I find Dan Brown's writing so awful, as to be completely distracting, his forté is crafting a plot that is original and exciting.

So on that basis alone, I will gladly watch this film cynically, but willingly.

You can be certain, that I will be blogging on it this weekend, too.

* I shall explain later Friday, why I paid such a hefty price for an advance ticket to see this film, which sadly, neither of my parents wanted to accompany me to watch (nor my one remaining, South Florida-centric friend).

Just get ready for another, rollicking ride on Sundries' travellogue series!

P.S.: Although if I would boycott the DVC, it would be because of Tom Hanks' bizarre new hairstyle, with those greasy long locks.

He looks like a lounge singer's idea of what Father Guido Sarducci would look like, if he were a French intellectual. Ick.

P.P.S.: And Ian McKellen can go suck both my jumblies, for that totally stupid remark on the Today Show, when he said the whole Bible is a work of fiction.

Heh. I think he'd hate that even more than his reviews after Richard III.

RELATED READING

Angels and Demons

UPDATE: Ah, the IMDB boards, gotta love 'em when you're not pulling out your hair.

As if the conspiracy theorists who have replicated like roaches in the United 93 forum weren't enough, now we have the trolls, malcontents, and throw-mud-up-and-see-what-stickers, at it in the Da Vinci Code forum.

But I have to say, as far as comic relief is worth, this spendidly absurd post gave me pause.

DAN BROWN ANNOUNCES SEQUEL TO THE DA VINCI CODE (drewpickles)

"Dan Brown is right now writing a novel that will follow up DVC titled "The Warhol Code". It will be about a detective finding out from Andy Warhol's paintings that Jesus and Judas were gay lovers that sticked cans of Campbell's soup up their asses, and that Jesus came back to earth on the 20th century and had an affair with Marylin Monroe. The film version will be directed by Pedro Almodovar and will star Heath Ledger as the detective and George Takei as his sidekick/lover and will have hardcore gay orgies at the end of the film with Catholic and Episcopalian priests. The soundtrack of the film will be composed by Elton John, Michael Jackson and recently discovered secret tracks from Freddy Mercury. It will beat Titanic's record at the box office with One trillion dollars and will win every Oscar the next year after the film, which the entire crew will use as dildos."

No wonder Bette Davis said Oscar looked like her ex-husband.

Request

Guys, a friend of ours on Sundries needs your positive thoughts, and/or prayers, down his way today.

I won't reveal any confidences given me, for which I am honoured if saddened to receive, but let's just say, he needs more than a few hugs at present.

God bless and hang tough, my friend.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Some Folks Don't Have Blogs

But they have cars.



The one lesson America has given the world, is that if you want to say something, you'll have a bigger impact, the more people see your opinion.

This idea that you have a right to say something publicly, no matter how silly or offensive, is possibly the archetypal American impulse -- next to competition, and most of all, independence.

Since most folks can't afford to buy a full-page ad in the New York Times for their ramblings, as Mr. Sean Penn can, and they won't be interviewed by Bernard-Henri Lévy (as Sharon Stone was) for his American Vertigo travellogue, they have to choose more personalised forms of disbursing their opinions.

These conduits are usually two:

One, their persons.

Two, their cars.

This is why I wore RELAX and FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD t-shirts as a kid in the 80's. And I looked as cute as a button.

But this is also why this person used his/her vehicle to advertise to all who would read it, his opinion on the recent Spanish-language translation of the US National Anthem.

"Our National Anthem is in 'English' -
We Have Not Asked for Translation
Take It Or Leave It
'God Bless America'"


Never mind what he is saying. That's not really the point.

I'm just glad people don't feel constrained to express a controversial opinion, no matter what others in Hollywood may tell you.

When famous people, whose fame has been gained at the cost of our hard-earned money, want to vent, MSM come a-callin' to transmit their thoughts.

When we do it, we have to go out to CVS, buy a magic marker, cellotape, and cardboard.

And on rare festive occasion, we have to brave the possibility that our cars will be keyed for our bothers.

So for this reason, and that of chutzpah, I salute people like these who dare to say what's in their minds...

...whether I agree with them or not.

Weatherman

And you thought your weatherman was annoying.



Pity the poor people in Venezuela -- for oh, so many reasons.

P.S.: Care to guess what on earth he was doing with that paper hat on his noggin? He looks like a cross between Napoleon and Al Roker...

Chef

Remember my January prediction about Vice-President Dick Cheney, stepping down before year's end?

Well, I see he's already thinking about tomorrow.



I'm guessing either pizza, or ribs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gator Chomp

(Welcome Anchoress readers!)

First, and foremost, I would like to allay your fears:

No, I don't jog anywhere near alligators.

This is no laughing matter, of course, since most of the news stations today have been buzzing that 3 unfortunate women have fallen victim to alligator attacks this past week, in the State of Florida.

-- Don't you love the squeamish hype The Telegraph use in their headline, "Florida in fear as alligators go on killing spree".

I can just see people's expressions back in England, as their every suspicion about the US being a dark, menacing, violent place which is barely tamed even now, is confirmed.

ALL OF FLORIDA IN A PANIC! ALLIGATORS IN KILLING SPREE! Read...THIS CRAP DOESN'T HAPPEN IN CIVILISED MILTON KEYNES!!

Conservative they may be, but the Tories have always been rather sniffy about America, and are all too glad to point out these kind of sensationalist, ghoulish, Wild West-like stories --

One deadly attack happened in nearish Sunrise (a neighbourhood in Ft. Lauderdale, not 25 miles away from me), the other two in the West Coast of Florida -- one lady of which was pulled out of a gator's jaws, only to rather understandably be pronounced dead on the scene.

Gosh, just thinking of this makes my skin crawl.

Now, for those of you who have never been down here, Florida is the land of the protected alligator species, ever since the 1960s, in fact, when they were in danger of dying out.

Thus, although alligators were and are a nuisance, they are often found near lakes in residential complexes all over the State, where inhabitants even actually feed them food.

I'm guessing these people have severe mental problems, or would really really like to have a pet, but their condo board said nyet.

One of my earliest encounters with this Florida mascot reptile, was staying at the Days Inn motel in Kissimmee, Florida, just a few miles from the Magic Kingdom.

Lo-and-behold, just as we were unpacking our car with our luggage, but do we spy a slew of gators sunning themselves in the lake, not more than 300 yards from the motel room.

Sure, there was a mini-fence around this lake, but come on, you've seen that crazy Australian gator guy who was inches away from having his baby chomped -- any distance between you a ferocious beast is just too close for comfort.

For a foreigner like me, this American habit of celebrating what others would consider plagues is a teency bit bizarre.

Instead of putting a pox on hurricanes, the University of Miami has made them infamous and beloved.

And alligators are so darling, that the University of Florida up in Jacksonville [ed. - that should read Gainesville, of course], honoured them by naming their school after them.

Why, they even play their oft-frustrating game of football in a place called "The Swamp". You drain swamps, not score touchdowns in them!

Yes, Americans like to make lemonade out of lemons, or in this case, lady's shoes and purses.

Perhaps, though, the most famous alligator anecdote I ever heard, was during President Clinton's term in office, about Janet Reno, his rather butch Attorney General, and noted local Miami gal.

I was reading her biography in the Miami Horrible newspaper rag one day, when I saw this a snippet of info, which went a little like this:

"Janet Reno's mother was a local legend, who would host the local JC group for a tea party in her stately Redland's home, after coming from a day wrestling alligators."

I cannot properly describe the double-take I did after reading that, but suffice it to say, a Warner Brothers cartoon character wouldn't have done it better.

Wow.

A Victorian lady who wrestled alligators and then served tea and crumpets to her fellow old biddies -- with doilies, yet! Gotta love that frontier spirit..........

Of course, her daughter Janet later become District Attorney for Dade County (as it was then), and knew a thing or two about predatory crawling animals.

Although, as we can see in this photo below, of Ms. Reno and Martin Sheen sharing a tender moment during a Democratic Party fundraiser,



...she certainly knew how to swim with the sharks, too.

P.S.: My porter, an Argentine, has a theory, which he deigned to share with me today, as I picked up a package downstairs.

He thinks the attacks are really by a serial killer, who is targetting single, comely women, after having "trained" the gators to attack them.

Ooh! Coinage!

"Jack the Gripper", anyone?

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter Paul mentions that these "when nature attacks" episodes, are too eerily Hitchockian in feel.

Could "The Birds" hold some clues as to why the gators are running amuk of a sudden?

I'm not sure. But I'm dyeing my hair brown.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Live Blogging The Presidential Immigration Address

(Welcome Silicon Gadfly readers!)

I will be simulblogging the Presidential Address to the nation, at 20:00 EDT.

We have all heard various leaks of the contents of the speech, but I personally am looking forward to hearing these points, on the topic of illegal immigration:

(1) An acknowledgement of the immigrant nature of the United States, and how immigrants contribute to the fabric of this nation, not just now, but always

(2) Tougher rhetoric to the administrations who encourage, aid, or actively abet illegal immigration, especially along the Mexican-American border

(3) A plan to mass deploy troops to the border, to assist in capturing, or helping to repatriate, these illegal immigrants

(4) A plan to penalise those, whether small or big businesses, who are caught employing illegal immigrants

(5) No Guest Worker Programme

-- When writing this above, I thought that my opinions sounded very harsh. But as noted in my recent blogpost, "My Immigration Experience", I consider the topic of illegal immigration to touch me personally, very severely.

I do however, acknowledge that I have wiggle-room on the topic.

As a voter who will use illegal immigration as a measuring-stick of how a politician has voted on the matter, I will, however, say that if there is a conterfeit-proof identification card issued to the illegal immigrants who can conclusively prove they have been here, for more than 5 years (and who will be granted the right to stay here, say 3 more years, then their individual situations can be reviewed by INS), I will concede that point.

Also, I don't mind if the legalised immigration to the United States, is raised or even doubled, from many Central American or South American countries, including Mexico.

I am looking for this President to give me proposals, not just talk, about this most pressing of matters, next to the War on Terror.

We'll see soon enough, won't we.

8:00 EST: Here we go. I am watching this on C-SPAN, the better to rid my mind of the talking-head chatter on the cable channels and heaven forbid, the networks. They are announcing that Dick Durbin (D-IL) will take the rebuttal for the Democrats.

8:02 EST: It's started. The blue tie tonight. His hands are making his points, as if to soften his words. President Bush looks as presidential as I've ever seen him, at first glance.

8:03 EST: Mentioning the forged documents, and the strain illegal immigrants place on the system. Also, as suspected, he is mentioning the importance of immigrants to this country ("nation of immigrants", in that catchphrase of all politicians).

8:04 EST: The President sets forth 5 objectives:

(I) The US MUST secure its borders. Manpower and technology will increase by 6,000 border patrol officials by 2008. High-tech fences, barriers in rural areas, infrared cameras, and unmanned vehicles to enforce the border. This will take time. But this is "urgent".

1- 6,000 National Guard Members will "assist" in patrolling the border. They will NOT be involved in policing, but in manpower numbers. The United States will NOT militarise the border, however, and he lays down a sop to the Mexicans, by saying that they are our friends.

2- State and local authorities will have training in how to apprehend and control illegal immigration.

3- Illegal immigrants, the majority of whom are Mexicans, will be repatriated immediately. "Catch-and-release" will be stopped, once and for all! Well done.

(II) Temporary Worker programme...oh dear. This is amnesty, and this won't fly with most Americans, let alone Republicans.

The President is making sure that he says that these Guest Workers must return home, at the conclusion of their legalised stay. No really...

(III) Businesses will be penalised if they have been found to have hired illegal immigrants.

-- This will include, as suspected, the tamper-proof ID cards, which will including biometric technology.

(IV) Those who are here, should not be given amnesty, and he says, he opposes it...President Bush believes that in this debate, there is a "rational middle ground", a good phrase, even if my stomach is in knots at the moment.

-- Oh dear, he says that those who are here, and have paid their debt to society, should be allowed to pay a penalty, and get to the back of the "line", in order to become US citizens later on down the road.

(V) The English language is getting its due. Is he going to mention that he is going to make the English language the official language of the US??

-- No. He is addressing his words now to Congress.

"Every human being has dignity and value"

Now, he is addressing himself to all of us, who are immigrants or who have immigrant ancestors -- he mentions Guadalupe de Lojan (?), a female Marine who swore her Oath as a new American, with the President beside her.

8:18 PM EST: "One nation under God. Thank you and Good Night".

A very disatisfying speech, with little original input.

I need a moment to get a handle on my thoughts before presenting my opinion on it, later.

Your thoughts are more than welcome.

UPDATE:

CNN: Lou Dobbs, whose views on this topic are so vitriolic, as to prompt a Los Angeles radio station to offer a $500 prize to the first illegal alien couple who produce a child named "Lou Dobbs", to honour this (in their words) "bigot", looks dissatisfied too.

Tony Blankley seems to think it's not such a bad speech, saying that at least he's now "in the game". He does also believe, however, that 6,000 troops is not nearly enough.

FNC: Carl Cameron mentions that a Republican Senator is not happy, saying that "amnesty is amnesty". Quite.

Brit Hume asks Cameron if this is THE legislative make-or-break bill for this President.

Absolutely.

(Whoa, Congressman Tancredo is on Bill O'Reilly. That's a coup and a half)

MSNBC: Keith Olbermann mentions something about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Gosh, I'm sorry I missed the lead up to this.

Suddenly, I get a wild vision of a Minuteman scratching his head:

"Who's been sleeping in my illegal-alien catching bunk bed?"

Chris Matthews mentions something about this topic being very boring to most Americans, but that Hispanics are obviously very interested in this Address. Oh really now.

Is this why my local UNIVISION and TELEMUNDO Spanish-language channels, didn't even cover the speech's aftermath?

In fact, since I didn't change the channel at that time, I don't even know if they covered the speech in translation, as they normally would with a major address to the US nation.

I can't believe they would be that cavalier about the topic.

I know that TV Azteca (US) did have a lead-up commentary by their presenters, but I tuned unto them immediately after the speech, and they too already had their telenovela on.

It tells you something about the speech, I think, if they are not chewing over this speech too much.

It wasn't very important, at the end of the day. Which worries me.

More later.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Right. I have ruminated on the topic. It's 8:40 EDT.

First, I think that this soapy, conciliatory speech was actually tailored by the President's advisers precisely to be this kind of address.

Instead of using belligerent language against illegal immigrants (the kind he frequently employs about the War on Terror), he deliberately had his speech have a kind of back-off character.

Nothing that he said, is really something that either Party can get their teeth into.

In effect, it has diffused the matter rather than heightened it, which is a win for the conservative (oh hated term) "base", since it provides a breather from the partisan backlash which might've followed.

(Equally, I do believe that Republicans will not be happy with what the President proposed tonight, although many believe, like Bill O'Reilly said, and which above I had mentioned myself prior to the speech, that there would be wiggle-room about the Identity Cards to illegals currently here. At least, AT LEAST, this would give us some idea of just how many people we are dealing with, and how to procede afterwards)

And though I am left rather disatisfied, I do think that the calculated leaks this weekend by the White House, as to the content of the speech, and today's Karl Rove warm-up, were rather crafty.

When voting begins tomorrow in Congress, it'll be the legislators who have been handed the hot potato, and not the President who remains with it, on his lap.

So, on that score alone, I am not displeased with what happened tonight.

Please check the commentaries, for further thoughts and replies on the matter.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Confuzzled

(Welcome Done With Mirrors readers, via Reader_Iam!)




What's wrong with this picture?

The Base

The Base. The Base. The Base.

I'm sick and tired of hearing this word bandied about by MSM, of all persuasions.

When did suddenly, we become this abstract, all-encompassing, totally ridiculous umbrella term, which is better suited to guys named Willie and Pete, rounding around?

For goodness' sake, I can't stand being thought of as a base.

It's demeaning -- like just another Social Security number or a statistic flung from the lips of talking heads, which my favourite funk-reggae group, UB40, liked to term, "the 1 in 10".

Please, make this "base" go away. Far, far away.

I'm not a base.

I'm a singularly opinionated, civically-minded citizen with a vote. And so are you.

6/6/6

Speaking of mothers, pity the poor mum who is due to give birth to her particular bundle of joy, on the dread 06/06/06.

Of course, Hollywood is super-mega-capitalising on this demonic numerological wonder, by launching a remake of the creepy kid movie, The Omen 666.

On June 6th, 2006.

And since I have once or twice cheated and bought a child admission at the box office, it'll cost me 6 dollars!

(pause for exclamations of surprise, shock, and scattered guffaws of "cheapskate")

Now, there have been other fake-spooky types of birthdays around, such as the eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, having been born on 08/08/88.

And look how she turned out.

But 6/6/6!

Well, that's quite another story.

Not only will every Wicca and demonologist have a car wash fundraiser on that day, but I fear some kind of schlocky attempt by kids who have nothing better to do, than to tape themselves doing foolish things for "Jackass".

I'm not looking forward to 6/6/6, no sir.

Especially since that's the day of my scheduled OB-GYN appointment. Gulp.

Didn't Rosemary's Baby start out that way?

Happy Mummy Day

This past week has been frazzled for me, family-wise.

Perhaps, that's your case too, or even, that's the normal state-of-affairs, chez toi.

Well, such is the magic of semi-official celebrations like Mother's Day, which allows those of us in these dire mummy straits, to take the opportunity to make it up to her -- courtesy of today.

So call up your mum.

Tell her you love her, or at least, that you don't loathe her. Even though she never did get you that Stretch Armstrong or Holly Hobby oven for Christmas.

My mum gave me everything, and I do mean everything, and still such ruptures occur -- that's not dysfunction; that's just normal.

My friends, you have many of much. But you'll only have one true mother.

Go call her. Go visit her. Go send her a e-card from Hallmark.

But don't let this freebie day pass by, without a word to the lady who so kindly allowed her womb to be invaded by you for a while.

Champers breakfast at the Biltmore Hotel, anyone?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

So, I'm Back

My dear friends and varied readers:

I cannot thank you enough for your indulgence this past week, during my self-imposed mini-exile from my beloved Sundries.

Although I am not 100% as yet, life being what it is, I have returned with a less heavy heart, in no large part due to all the magnificent messages of loving warmth you sent me, both publicly and privately.

I am seriously in all your debts. Thank you so much.

But now, let's continue our blogospheric journey together, shall we?

Ooh! Me first!

"Goal!" The Impossibly Good Soccer Film

[Please note, those who have not seen this film yet: This is a full film review, complete with some spoilers of the film narrative, which could include post-replies which may follow]

Most of you around the world, have already had the opportunity of watching this film, but that is not the case with those of us in America.

"Goal!: The Impossible Dream" (2005) just premiered Friday, 12 May 2006, nationwide in the US, no doubt trying to capitalise on the euphoric anticipation so many of us football fans have, with the World Cup in Germany, less than a month away.



And let me tell you, this film is a must-see for all footy fans, wherever you are.

The thing is, as we all know, football films tend towards the amiably predictable (Bend it Like Beckham -- which, however, I liked), the star-studded (Victory! -- which, however, I liked), or the just plain quirky (Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick -- which, however, I liked).

As if this were not enough, sadly for us fans, some films on soccer are just plain dire.

This may be due to sport and the cinematic medium not seeming to fit...perhaps because to have an engaging, athletic-based film, you need to have the combined talent of acting and proficiency in the game, else even the pedestrian audience won't buy it.

(Not for nothing is the best film on soccer STILL, years after it's heroes' heydeys are long over, Victory -- the film where you struggle to understand both Pele and Stallone's English, but still revel in the storyline)

The basic premise of this year's attempt at football fantasy is simple:

A young Angelino has a dream -- to escape the daily drudgery of his illegal Mexican-American immigrant life by playing soccer. His father, a stern, hard-working gardener thinks his son has illusions which may end up by crushing him (as his certainly were, his emigration to the land of milk and trockas* notwithstanding).

But fate, which can crush a man's dreams one moment, as easily as it can elevate his spirit the very next time, reprieves him by sending him the gift of a British soccer scout (Stephen Dillane), who believes in the young Chicano lad perhaps more than anyone has, save Santiago's loving, generous gran.

The catch is:

Our young lad has to get himself over to Newcastle, so fate can start to work its personal magic.

Will he? Does he? How, if his father denigrates his son at every turn, forbading him to even try?

Well, of course, he does, else there would be no film. But it's not the journey that matters for a change in this film -- but the goal (pun, very much intended).

In watching this film, which is not brilliant by the standards the year 2005 gave us adult film-goers (Brokeback Mountain, The Squid and the Whale, Paradise Now, Ushpizin, Junebug, The Dying Gaul), but it has a certain sparkle, a glint of something deeper, than even its rather formulaic storyline cannot muck-up.

And I think you'll agree that the reason for this shimmer is the charismatic, and entirely believable performance by Mexico's greatest actress, Maria Felix', great-nephew:

Kuno Becker.



I had never seen him in action before, although I had certainly heard of him, since I'm not a Mexican telenovela aficionada.

Yet whether it's his family acting genes, or his genuine skill with a football, but his persona on-screen absolutely sizzles.

He has that undefinable something called star-presence, much moreso than any previous, recent Spanish-speaking actor (Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, et. al.). This kid is a star Hollywood will just love to eat up, a case of his character's story mimicking his real life.

And perhaps this is fitting, since the anchor this film is tied to, centres around chance.

The chance to prove oneself to one's family, to one's admirer's, even to one's detractors, and even more existentially, to the circumstances which you were born to.

All of us, no matter how privileged, or how blessed, know about being given a chance to succeed. The success is not without -- it's within us all, if only chance would give us that opportunity to shine.

This film will appeal to so many age groups, and kinds of people:

-- It's got a father-son rivalry, led by the stand-out performance of the dad by Cuban-American actor, Tony Plana (who recently played a Joel Grey-emcee-like role in the excellent if unwieldy, The Lost City).



Sometimes our parents are scared for us, because they know life can be maniacally cruel.

But sometimes, and this is especially true of fathers it seems, dads feel that a child's progress somehow throws his life into disrepute -- that it lessens whatever little accomplishment he has had, when the child supercedes him. It's irrational and contradictory, but completely, irretrievably human.

-- It's got the Mexican immigrant angle, so topical at present, as to seem almost contrived to mesh with current events (but this film was shot in 2004, so it's just a happy -- ? -- coincidence).

-- It's got the love angle, but like so many 'boy films' is, however, not overdone: in fact, "Brookside" actress, Anna Friel, plays her secondary role with restraint and genuine charm. She's a Northern lass, not easily bowled over by any flash would-be footballer.

-- It's got the rubbernecking famous footballer angle, since you can fill your footy boots with endless sights of Shearer, Zidane, Raul, Beckham, Fulham, Chelsea, Liverpool and obviously, Newcastle stars we all know and love to see act badly.



And I can think of worse pitches to see, than those loving, endless shots of St. James' Park and Newcastle, proper. (See if you can spot that Chariots of Fire moment at the pier, too).

I think what makes this film work is the excellent supporting roles, filled to perfection by the cast of veteran actors like Romanian actor of note, Marcel Iures (in a majestic performance as the Newcastle United manager), or equally veteran actress from Puerto Rico, Miriam Colon.

I don't think I've EVER seen Colon give a bad performance, though because of her "achinada" looks, she often plays Mexicans, such as the brilliant, self-hating Mexican lady in "Lone Star".

As the grandmother who loves her grandson and saves him from himself, not once, but always, she adds a certain something, which a lesser actress might've just made a parody of the role of the eternal abuelita.

Another interesting performance is given by the Bostonian Alessandro Nivola, whose accent is just like the rest -- forced, at times comically Mrs. Doubtfirish (including the "Geordie" actors...), but there is a definite authenticity in his portrayal of the pampered footballer, whose ego is marginally less charged than his high-powered Mercedeses.

His role of Gavin Harris actually seems like a combination of Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, and Mido, all rolled into one bundle of heaven-sent narcissicism.

And who amongst us, doesn't love to hate a footballer who thinks he's God's answer to our fields of dreams?

So, "Goal!: The Impossible Dream" is not going to topple Victory! from its top soccer perch, but I'll tell you:



It's a decent film, about a great sport. What else can any football fan ask for?

*** (3 out of 5 stars)

Goal! (US title, 2005/6)
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
Box Office:
Opening Weekend
£857,253 (UK) (2 October 2005) (366 Screens)
€103,674 (Netherlands) (23 October 2005) (58 Screens)
Gross
£1,852,835 (UK) (16 October 2005)
"Goal II" is already in post-production, with "Goal III" set to be filmed in 2007

* "Trocka" seems to mean in Mexican-American parlance, what camión is to the rest of Spanish-speakers: a truck...Who knew?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Life Interrupted

(Please scroll below, or click on these updated posts: The Real Kennedy Curse, Florida's Official Pie, Immigration Hits Home)

Dear All:

You'll forgive the silence of late, but as you know, my home was engorged with workmen this week, re-doing my bathroom. It's been done, but now, a new complication has arisen -- a more personal one.

For these reasons, I will take a week off of blogging, to return anew next Saturday, 13th May, 2006, with -- God willing -- a fresher spirit.

My email is at your disposal, as ever.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Real Kennedy Curse

Surely most people are aware that the sudden resignation of Porter Goss, third CIA director under President GW Bush, is a much, much more important story than Rhode Island Congressman, Patrick J. Kennedy's befuddled introduction to the Capitol's barriers?

So, why is it that the news organisations are leading with the Kennedy story, and not the Porter Goss one?

I know, I know.

If it bleeds, it leads, and let's face it, Porter Goss is a bloodless coup.

Much more juicy drubbings can be had, by picking apart yet another Kennedy scandal, with people being allowed to utter with glee, those fateful words, "The Kennedy Curse".

(For the record, I don't believe in curses, and think the whole idea of a huge clan of hyperactive, arrogant individuals living on faded glory fumes being cursed is very silly)

As much as people love to rag on the Kennedys, because of their sheer numbers, they will always provide the media with ample opportunities to half-snipe, half-reminisce.

But during the latest Patrick Kennedy drugs-addiction story, I was reminded of one incident, which touched me a lot at the time:

I remember waking up to the live story on ALL the networks, let alone the cable channels, that young John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s plane was missing, and the Coast Guard were scouring Martha's Vineyard for him.

They kept doing so, until they found him, a few days later.

Until that time, the nation's media were in suspended animation, as if the President of the United States himself, had just disappeared.

And that is the power, the allure, the spell of the Kennedy name, at its best/worst.

I grant you that a lot of people were slightly in love with young John Kennedy -- I was.

Who can forget that immortal salute with those chubby baby fingers as his father's caisson passed by?

In fact, I love that little nuclear family of President Kennedy a lot, and mourned inside me, the death of each member -- from his widow, to his son, leaving only his daughter now, as she ages unexpectedly into a graceful grande dame of New York society.

But just as with Patrick Kennedy, John Kennedy's death resonated BECAUSE of who he was related to, and not what he had himself done in his short lifetime.

I remember in 1999, hearing young people around me wonder what the "fuss" was about, and why the airwaves were saturated with the photos and newsreels and interviews of this other John Kennedy.

It occured to me then that the people, that is, the reporters, journalists, and journalist-powers-that-be were young men and women during the early 1960s.

If I was touched by the baby salute, much more they since they were actually alive then, which must've branded their psyche with a nostalgic fondness for all things Kennedy, even perhaps more than that -- an allegiance which has all the hallmarks of an emotional tie which has never fully matured.

It's part angry at being abandoned, but part hoping not to let go, because there is so much to say still.

I can assure you that at no time Friday, did anyone around me (even when asked), evince the slightest interest in the Patrick Kennedy story.

So although journalists can put out reasons why they have to cover this incident, such as:

- It's Surprise Friday, when news is slow yet sometimes breaks of a sudden
- Momentum can be gained for the weekend ratings by hammering the story
- It's a legitimate news story, after all


Which are all true, of course.

But I do believe, and perhaps you may too, that what drives the Congressman's sad tale, is not partisan politics, for once -- but that need not to let go of the Kennedy Myth.

The myth that these are Olympian gods, with flaws perhaps, but gods nonetheless.

And the gods which capture your mind as a young person, live inside you long after their laurels hang limp.

I wish PJ Kennedy well.

Olympic standards are hard to live up to, even if graven idols abuse them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Florida's Official Pie

We have a new OFFICIAL State Pie!

First, close your eyes.

Imagine the possible candidates to holding this most important OFFICIAL, Florida Senate-approved position.

Is it the scrumptious Pecan Pie?

Is it the delectable Sweet Potato Pie?

Is it the red-white-and-blue waving Apple Pie?

Shame on you.

You know beans about Florida. Or indeed, pies.

The only OFFICIAL immortal Florida pie can be:

The Key Lime Pie!

For those scoring at home, the vote on the Florida Senate floor wasn't even close:

106 votes to 14.

Pecan pie came in second, and sweet potato pie came in third.

(I wonder if some Georgian legislators managed to sneak in? I mean, pecan pie, WTF??)

I love Key Lime Pie, although the one time I had it in Key West, I was as sick as a poodle for days (note: don't eat it at one-hit, would-be-musician, Castro-visiting, Margarita-swilling wonder's restaurants in Key West).

Nevertheless, despite this awful introduction to Key Lime pie, I have continued to order it, and have savoured its sweet-and-sour taste for years now.

The best South Florida Key Lime pie is allegdly Terry's Famous Key Lime Pie take-out restaurant in Davie, which makes pies 24/7. And they sell them as fast as they make 'em.

It was they, in fact, that spearheaded the drive (three times!) to make the Key Lime Pie the OFFICIAL Florida state pie, although I'm not sure any other State in the Union has an OFFICIAL state pie...

Why do Americans have OFFICIAL state stuff, anyway?

Where did this singularly American tradition, like proms and homecoming and year books and school rings, come from?

I assure you we don't have an OFFICIAL state soup in Oxfordshire, although if we did, I'm sure Brown Windsor would win by a lot.

Don't get me wrong -- I love these OFFICIAL state miscellanea, and know the OFFICIAL Florida song is Suwanee River, the OFFICIAL Florida tree is the Orange tree, the OFFICIAL Florida bird is the Mockingbird, but still.

Who, what, why?

Perhaps the answer lies in what people are still not aware of, about America.

That it may be one huge landmass, but in reality, it's 50 countries in one nation.

The OFFICIAL stuff is just a way of making sure you know and appreciate their histories.

So next time, when you chow down on a Key Lime pie, tip your hat towards us down here, and sing a little stanza of Suwanee River, whilst you're at it.

Because Key Lime Pie is OFFICIALLY delicious.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Immigration Hits Home

When I said in the blogpost below that the workmen were Cuban-Americans, I was a bit hasty.

The company contracted to re-do our bathroom, were indeed, Cuban-Americans, some fresh off the rafts.

('Balseros', as they are called, are notable because they all have a certain look to them -- very tanned, and emaciated, even years after they have arrived. It's the lack of nutritious food, and vitamins, which generations of rationed everything have done for these poor people).

But the guys who actually did the work, were Mexicans.

I didn't speak to them much, since I could hardly hear myself think (let alone, blog), over the noise and confusion.

But they were very nice, deferential, and though they stopped to chat a lot -- with comical consequences, since they were talking about my family and home thinking I didn't speak Spanish --, they worked hard.

In fact, they were done a day earlier than expected.

The thing of it is, already one item is faultily-installed, and the boss will have to come to inspect it on Monday.

And this is perhaps when the matter of cheap immigrant labour raises its ugly head.

In each of the situations when a recently-arrived immigrant has been hired by my family to do work, something has gone wrong immediately afterwards.

Why do we do so, despite these experiences?

Because we're cheap -- first and foremost.

But also, because you don't want to appear to be a racist or a snob by saying, "Please only send Americans to do this job. You know what we mean (wink, nudge)".

That's just awful, and obviously wrong.

But there you are.

Maybe it's the ethos of customer service, maybe it's careful training or apprenticeship with the latest materials, maybe it's just the differences in culture (including punctuality), but there is a noticeable difference when you hire a recently-arrived immigrant, to a born-and-bred American to do a job, in my recent experience.

But don't worry.

The good news with immigration is the next generation, is American, 100%.

And if they do something wrong, we get to sue!

That's the American way.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fuming

Good Lord! How can these workmen stand the fumes? Bless their hardworking, little Cuban-American lungs.

(They don't speak a lick of English, plus they smoke, so perfect, they ain't)

I am just off to my friend's flat, to sleep there overnight, whilst my parents take comfort in the arms of the Intercontinental.

Just so that you know, the Blogger conspiracy against reading my Immigration Experience has been boringly solved, so I shan't be suing.

But you can sure bet, Blogger must have one or two illegals working for them, who were miffed at my story.

"Oh sure, what does the trust fund baby know about coyotes and pandillas mortiferas?"

A lot my friends. A lot. Cough.

See you Wednesday!

Bait Cars

I was watching CNBC's Donny Deutsch programme, when I saw a new police programme which nabs carjackers, by "baiting" them with a specially designed car. Have you seen it?

The car shuts off the petrol, the moment they try to drive it away.

One guy, knowing he was caught, decided to take a toke off his crack pipe, as the coppers approached!

Here is a question for the lawyers, though:

Why isn't this admittedly wonderful programme, classified as entrapment?

Deutsch played devil's advocate by saying that maybe police resources would be better spent in solving murders (Fox News response: You mean as in Natalee Holloway's murder?).

I personally think the programme is brilliant, and wonder if its in use in the GTA capital, Miami Beach?



By placing bait cars where they can be stolen, you put the seed of doubt into a thief's mind -- they are the hunted, instead of being the hunters of illicit rides.

I did see that two of the criminals noticed that most bait cars are always clean, just like some people can pick out an undercover cop, because their shoes tend to be buffed or their nails, unsoiled.

So perhaps, as the criminals get "smarter", the police might have to change some of their tactics.

Like running over the hooker in the streetcorner, to get more lives.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Immigration Experience

(Welcome The 26th Parallel readers!)

Since May Day is here, and so are the pro-immigration rallies, I wanted to give you a little extra something, which you may not find being reported by mainstream media.

It is the tale of my immigration to the United States in 1998.

First, some background for first-time readers:

My two foreign-born parents originally emigrated to the United States in the early 1980s.

It was decided on my behalf to allow me to remain in England, so that I might continue my education at an independent boarding school -- which had accepted me the year before, after a battery of exams, interviews, and more exams.

Yes, it was a gruelling procedure, but one which ironically prepared me for every future interview which followed -- a springboard for maturity and self-possession, when your very future life is on the line.

By the way, I was 9 years old.

Remember when you were nine? Well, hold that thought. We'll come back to it.

So I lived my life in parallel to my parents, who sent for me at least 3 times a year plus the whole summer, and even sometimes, more often than that, if THEIR parents sprung for the tickets.

Fortunately, my grandparents made that sacrifice for me, since they accepted my parents' decision to come to the US.

They weren't crazy about it at first, but then, no parent is, when they lose a child to an ocean.

They couldn't understand why both my parents, who were given every advantage in their homelands, would give all that up, to start from nothing, in America.

I guess it's hard to understand that nothing is truly your own, if someone always reminds you, you got where you are with help.

America is the ultimate apron-strings cutter, in that way.

Nevertheless, this is why my dad arrived, that first time, with 300 dollars in his wallet, and set out to conquer the medical field, one excrutiatingly difficult, fraught with envy, misunderstanding, and suspicion step at a time.

My mother put her own medical career on hold, and went to work in a bank, and together at night, they would sit in their University-provided pokey bed-sit flat, and sleep, exhausted from the travails of the day.

See, the thing of it is, both of them were almost wealthy compared to what migrant workers have to go through, and the miseries they have to endure.

They had a home. They had clothes. They had food. They had a job.

Not a very nice home. Not the Saville Row suits dad was used to. Nor the haute cuisine restaurants my mother grew up around. Nor the jobs either were qualified by intellect and education to do.

And of course, their family were rent asunder, since I was away from them.

They suffered -- a whole heck of a lot, but for some people, their toil and tears are not worthy of the same respect, because they had it better than most.

Now I want you to flash forward to 1998.

This father of mine, who in the decade and a half since those early struggles, had built up a network of small clinics, was living the American dream at its finest.

In the nation where prosperity is king, he was an emperor.

My mother had built up her own practise, after she originally had been his first secretary/office manager/bill collector in those early days, and was a very happy lady, at long last.

It was January 1998, and things couldn't have been better, since at last I was graduating from University, something which in my educationally-driven family meant the world.

Suddenly, I was awoken by one of the scouts (a college servant assigned to you), with the chilling words:

"Your mother is on the phone. She doesn't half sound worried."

It was January 1998, and my life was about to change forever. My father had had the first of what would be two heart attacks, in succession.

I was in the midst of the trickiest year of my University career, and couldn't leave, though with every fibre of my body, I wanted to.

It was during those hard, soulless nights, when my father struggled for life, that I made the conscious decision:

As an Oxford University graduate, my options in Britain would lay before me like an open sesame of choice.

But my place was with my family...in the United States. Forever.

The next day, I took the Oxford Tube (a coach service to London), and entered the slightly ugly, post-modern building in Grosvenor Square, that is the US Embassy in Mayfair.

The queues were endless.

There were queues for native-born Americans.

There were queues for foreigners seeking information from consular officials.

There were queues for passport and visas.

And then, there were queues for nervous would-be emigrants, just like me.

Because I was born in a prosperous country, my chances to emigrate to the US, were that much harder -- but I recalled that interview when I was 9, gulped air, and took the application.

I took the Oxford Tube back to college, and filled it out on an old-fashioned type-writer, which even then, was a relic.

I entered the US Embassy again. I was stared at by the stern Marines in their dazzling uniforms again ("Hi", I sallied. No reply). And off I went, into another queue.

A few days later, I received a fat envelope. In it, were all the documents I needed to produce, for the next stage of my emigration process.

They included, apart from requesting birth certificates, in tedious bureaucratic language:

- A fully documented written history of your life to date, signed and notarised (to ascertain your language proficiency?)

- A copy of your police record, without priors hopefully

- A copy of where you intend to stay in the US, when you arrive

- A copy of your bank statement

- A copy of your American hosts' (if applicable) bank statement

- A copy of your educational, and professional record to date


This took me about a month-and-a-half to procure. During the build-up to the most important exams of my life, mind you.

Again, I took the Oxford Tube, and went yet again to exchange nervous banter with those smart Marines.

This time, I got a reply. They were beginning to recognise me. Maybe.

I handed in my packet.

(In case you wonder, I did so in person, instead of posting, JUST IN CASE. I had my mother's mistrustful-of-post offices personality)

A month later, I got a reply.

My interview was set in two weeks. The first of two interviews, although I didn't know that yet.

I arrived looking as shiny as a new quarter...but not too. You have to show them you're prosperous ENOUGH to be given respect, but humble enough to fit in as a new immigrant in the US.

The examiner/interviewer was a very stern American diplomat with a short, clipped, salt-and-pepper moustache.

On his wall, a diploma from the University of Michigan. On his desk, a miniature football helmet in blue and grey, which I later found out was that of the Detroit Lions.

Oh Lord. A man from the Heartland.

Not some wise-cracking, but pull-no-punches New Yorker. Not a laid-back, but professional Californian. Not a hot-tempered, but affable Texan.

No. A Midwesterner -- the scariest American of them all.

They've got "no-nonsense" tattooed on their foreheads in invisible ink, which only desperate would-be immigrants, can see.

To my astonishment, he didn't grill me about my documents. They were in order.

The interview lasted all of 15 minutes (the wait, almost 2 hours), but I was given more stuff to fill out/do/see to.

Apart from everything, there was this one "to do" demand, which I remembered from my childhood:

Every immigrant who enters this country legally, that is, is given his entry visa in his homeland or other country, must have a full medical physical by a Embassy or Consulate-vetted physician.

(Such a physician, I found out later, was usually an American expatriate, or an American-trained doctor, whose background had been fully inspected by the US Embassy in question -- this reduced the risk of being bribed, apparently)

The list was not long.

In London, proper, there were about 5 or 6 physicians who were charged to give out the battery of physical exams, to prove that you were a solid physical specimen worth of American residency (although, of that I cannot be sure, since I was healthy -- but maybe others who are not, are approved just the same).

I went back to Mayfair. By now, the Marines grinned at me. Ah hasty, optimistic youth. It always wins out in the end.

I waited about a month. Another interview was scheduled. This time, I went in looking like a million bucks. A winner, in the land of winners.

I got an African-American gentleman, who was bemoaning the Monica Lewinsky scandale royale, since he was a supporter of President Clinton (he said, I thought, rather candidly, but which I liked for his honesty).

Throughout this conversation, though I looked like I was off my guard, I was not.

I remember being offered some sweets by that headmistress, when I was 9, and having been coached by my mother to refuse.

No hardship, since I hate candy anyway.

But you see, interviews are tests, and in tests, you sometimes get trick questions.

And if you're not prepared, you will fail before you even know it.

So, I looked him straight in the eye, and said, "I'm not a very political person", and he smiled. And it was true!

Politics is a candy, I've never liked.

Some 30 minutes later, after quizzing me as to my reasons for leaving (which I told him very simply, that I felt my place was at my parents' side, as they grew older), I heard these words:

"Congratulations. You have been accepted to enter the United States as a resident alien. After 5 years time, you can, if you want to, apply for US citizenship."

Even as I write this, my eyes well up with tears, and I get a Gordian-sized knot in my throat.

Those of you who were born in this country, you can never know how it feels to hear these words.

You will never know the hurdles we immigrants have had to jump, to be able to set foot in this country.

You will never know how many applications you have ripped, because the typewriter messed up and it got all blotched and inky.

You will never know how lonely it feels, making those queues in those forbidding embassies and consulates, being stared at by menacing, jar-headed Marines.

And you will never know the elation, the relief, the inexpressible happiness of being allowed to come to this country, legally.

Because, my friends, it's difficult. It's almost a process of Herculean proportions.

That's why people overstay their visas, or cross the Rio Grande, or die trying in containers.

Ever since Ellis Island greeted its last lonely, frightened immigrant, we have had to endure these indignities, through a battery of tests which are all aimed to see if you have what it takes to be an American.

Not everyone went through what I did. Not everyone felt the same way I did.

But you can be sure, that every one of us, knows what it means to come to America.

America is the interview, and every day is a trick question.

The only difference is that I, like so many others, didn't cheat and copy the answers.

I am not anti-immigrant. How could I be? I am an immigrant myself.

But for every one who didn't go through what I went through, I feel it is a slap to my face, and to that of all like me, because I did it the right way.

Just like my parents taught me to, when I was 9.

P.S.: Dad is fighting the fight with his health, still. But thanks to my hasty, optimistic youthful decision to emigrate, I have had some never-to-be-forgotten times with him, and with my mother, for which I will always be grateful to America, to have been given.

I am in America's debt. Forever.

Another Reason I Love This Country

You can blog, blind!

Check out word verification: you'll see Blogger's latest upgrade.

Next to your word verification alphabet soup (which I'm convinced is not random at all, but rather a product of a sick, twisted mind -- you know who you are), you'll see the universal sign for:

Handicapped folk.



If you hover your mouse over it, it says:

"Listen and type the word verification"

Dude, that's so awesome.

Where else but in America, would a blog service think of making blind bloggers feel they too, can put the pox on the spammers?

P.S.: Despite my flippant tone, I actually find this new service, fantastic.

One of my favourite heroines, is Helen Keller. Yeah, there are a lot of great jokes about her, and I know a lot, boy!

How did Helen Keller's parents punish her? They re-arranged the furniture.

But to think that today, Helen Keller would be blogging, is enough to make me smile.

You go, blind bloggers!


 




Advertise on blogs
British Expat Blog Directory.