Witless Trump Ain’t No Insult Artist

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I read the other day that almost all of Trump’s supporters – 90% of Republicans according to a recent poll – admire him because he tells it as [he perceives] it is. For example, Maxine Waters is “low IQ,” Senator Mark Warner “a drunk,” and “whimpering” Jimmie Fallon less than “a man.”[1]

In other words, they admire him because he is a vulgarian.  But he’s not a clever vulgarian – his insults lack wit.  I never found Don Rickles funny, but compared to Trump, Rickles seems like Churchill vis a vis Lady Astor.

For example, Trump could utilize someone on his staff to crib insults from the Internet, since plagiarism didn’t seem to hurt the campaign one iota.

“Hey, Fallon,” he might tweet, “you’ll never be the man your mother was” or he could bitchslap Maxine Waters with, “If I ever wanted to kill myself, I’d climb up the top of your ego and jump down to the level of your IQ.”

“You know Senator Warner has a bad drinking problem: one mouth and two hands.”

Har har har.

And Republicans are whining that civility is at an all time low.


[1]That the leader of the so-called Free World” might be investing his time in more important ways than stooping to celebrity bashing doesn’t seem to occur to them.

Making the Rounds in Ronda

In Ronda, we made the rounds of museums, first Museo Lara, owned by a collector of oddities who lives in an apartment above those cultural artifacts on display, obsolete and obsolescent gadgets like telegraph apparatus,  gramophones, and typewriters and other interesting collectables like pipes and musical instruments.

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More interesting — at least for me — are the rooms dedicated to the Inquisition where you can actually run your hands across the spikes of an iron maiden or check out the crudity of a head crusher or a chastity belt and marvel at other ingenious instruments of torture.

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Then there’s a room devoted to the so-called black arts.  Here you can see such wonderful specimens like this:

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Bat-headed crab?

The dioramas are also worth a peek.

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Next we visited the Museo del Bandoleros, a unique collection dedicated to those highwaymen who have become the stuff of legend in Andalusia. Some of the more famous ones actually have comic books dedicated to them and comic-book like poetry, some in couplets, others in terza rima.

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Our favorite is Juan Jose Mongolla, aka Pasos Largos,  who favors the Moore family.

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Anyway, these marauders lived in caves along the highway and would swoop down  on horsemen and stage coaches divesting their victims of cumbersome gold and jewelry.  They also appear to have been popular with the ladies, if several paintings and woodcuts can be trusted that show the bandoleros on horseback serenading women troubadour-style.

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They also were on hand to rescue damsels in distress.

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These cats aren’t as lucky.

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We also visited the Plaza del Toros, the bullring, one of the most revered in Spain, according to our travel guide.  Although it only seats 5,000, it’s circumference makes it one of the largest in Spain.  Hemingway, of course, was a paying customer here.  You can read about his association with the town here.

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Still, one of the town’s coolest attractions is the Hotel Enfrente Arte, Spain’s answer to New York’s famous Chelsea Hotel.  I failed to mention in my previous post the wonderful breakfast they serve, which like beer and wine, is included in the daily rate.  A vast array of culinary delights are available.  My favorite was quail eggs and bacon with tomato on toast, brought to your table with a loud ta-da by the gregarious chef.

Our last night in Ronda, we hit another Flamenco show.  Although inferior to the performance we caught in Jerez, this one did feature a female dressed to the nines who was very impressive.  As she stomped her feat and contorted her body, an occasional bangle would disengage from her costume and fly across the stage.

Here she is the afternoon before the performance with one of her fans.

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Like all good things — long-running sitcoms, bottles of Jamesons, happy marriages — our stay in Ronda had to come to its end.  On Thursday, we retrieved our rental car and made our way down to Vejer, which I have dubbed the Beirut of Southern Spain.  Here, we’re going to visit our first beach, so stay tuned.

A Morning after Flamenco

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When I was little, when away,

I suffered homesickness,

Though my house stank

Of stale (and fresh) cigarette smoke.

 

This hotel room shares the same smell,

The smell of disappointment,

Of tattered smoking jackets.

 

Outside, trucks idle,

Doors clang shut, the blue sky stretches

Across Andalucía and Africa.

 

Stretches,

Like one just awakening.

Hotel Magic

You know you’re dealing with an ancient human settlement (9thcentury BCE according to our guide book) when the city center is named La Ciudad.[1]  We’re now in Ronda, a ridiculously picturesque cluster of buildings perched on a cliff overlooking a precipitous gorge.

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Getting to the hotel through the narrow twisting streets (think Theseus/labyrinth) produced in me something like claustrophobia.  My rear view side mirrors came within centimeters of those of the cars parked along the curb, and pedestrians strolled as obliviously as if they’d just mainlined some anti-Darwinian drug (okay, smack) that rendered them oblivious to the (albeit creeping) oncoming traffic. I recalled the unsmiling face of rent-a-car woman at Seville’s airport suggesting we purchase extra insurance.[2]

However, ever so propitiously, as Caroline shouted, “There’s the hotel,” and suggested I park illegally for a sec while she ran in the inquire, a space came open right dab across the street.  Parking had been an issue in Jerez. Concha had directed us where we could park for free on a tree-lined street, which was great, and worked (no towing, smashed in windows or Yankee Go Home graffito), but our rental did look as if it had been a vehicle parked in the town of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.[3]

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The hotel itself — Enfrente Arte — is dada-esque.

I’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

Here’s what’s hanging in my bathroom.

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The most exotic amenity is a sitting area where fish provide pedicures (or, to be truthful, nibble your feet).

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OH YEAH! BEER AND WINE ARE INCLUDED AND YOU SERVE YOURSELF!

The Romantics and Hemingway dug Ronda, and it’s no wonder because it is wonderful.

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[1]One of my favorite scams to pull on Brit Lit students is to pose the question “What was the name of the first theater in Elizabethan England?”  They always answer, “The Globe,” but the correct answer is “The Theater.”

[2]I’ve driven a lot abroad (including Jamaica, Ireland, Scotland, and England) and the only damage that happened (in Portugal) American Express took care of.

[3]I.e. bird shit splattered.

Spanish Holiday, Days 2 & 3

Monday 13th

If I were a real man, i.e., drove a Ford 150 Raptor with a Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker emblazoning its bumper, I’d take in a bullfight while here in Andalucía.[1] After all, like many macho wannnbes, I read lots of Hemingway in my youth, commencing, of course, with The Old Man and the Sea, then The Sun Also Rises in my teens, all of those great short stories in my twenties (along with A Farewell to Arms and To Have and to Have Not).  I concluded the grand tour in ’83, half a lifetime ago, with For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I finished in Athens, Greece, the summer before Judy and I conceived our first son Harrison.

Note that the catalogue lacks Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway’s non-fiction paean to the ritualistic blood ballet of bullfighting. That’s just how much I’m not into bullfighting.  People say read Death in the Afternoon for the writing, but I’m hip to Hemingway’s style.  Nope, I ain’t doing it. Bullfighting gives me the heebie jeebies.

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In fact, I’m so not macho that I actually didn’t enjoy the Real Escuela de Arte Equestre (Royal School of Equestrian Art) horseshow I saw in Jerez today at noon. Caroline dubbed it “animal cruelty lite” and Brooks considered it “just sad.”

Don’t get me wrong.  No one stuck picas or banderillas in the horses and finished them off with a sword thrust through the heart; however, the horses – and they were beautiful – were forced to be unnatural, to sidle, to prance, to rear, to rear and kick, and none of these stunts were particularly graceful. The rearing reminded me of a weak tween after great strain successfully accomplishing a pull-up in PE.

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The final act, though, was the best.  A dozen or so horses and riders did a sort of Bugsy Berkeley routine where they interlaced to form patterns that would no doubt be kaleidoscopically cool looking from a bird’s eye view perspective.

But, hey, consider the source, non macho me.  Virtually everyone else besides us seemed to dig it big time, clapping vigorously with each rear and kick. They say if you visit Jerez you have to see it, and we did.

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Now, Flamenco is another thing altogether.  Caroline, Brooks, and I met Charlie, Concha, Concha’s sister Maria Jose, and her friend Marissa at a tiny club half a block away from our apartment.

The stage consisted of a percussive board on the floor.  The show started around ten with three performers seated in chairs in a row.  To my right was a terrific guitarist, a vocalist in the middle, and what seemed to be a foot percussionist to the left.  The guitarist went to town while the other two provided frenetic percussion with hand claps and foot-stomping, and the time they kept was complicated, at cross currents.  The singing was plaintive, a sort of extended, insistent lament that featured dramatic, pained expressions.  Undoubtedly, his baby done him wrong or perished in a fire or something else permanent scar producing.

Eventually, the fellow on my left jumped up and started dancing, doing that staccato, rapid fire foot stomping that I associate with flamenco. He, too, was quite dramatic, almost campy, leaning back, throwing his arms into the air.  This short video doesn’t do it justice, but I was too close to the stage.[2] Later cousins joined in with extended vocal solos, and a couple of women took the stage for some solo dancing.

 

So, all and all, it was a full, day punctuated by a delightful hour long snooze during siesta.  Today we’re off to one of Charlie and Concha’s friend’s house to watch Spain go against Portugal.

 Fun Facts/ Personal Notes

 Few people speak English here, so I’ve become an expert mime, hoisting my hands into the air, scribbling on an invisible notebook to summon the waiter, etc.

Wednesday night we had a delicious dinner provided by Concha on the rooftop patio of their beautiful home.   Check out their views.  Adios!

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[1]No, I drive a Mini Cooper with a “Howl if you like City Lights Bookstore” slapped crookedly on the back bumper.

[2]Alas, I’m non my school laptop that doesn’t have iMovie, Final Cut pro, or even Photoshop for that matter, so forgive the crudity of the video.

Holiday in Spain: Jerez, Days 1 & 2

Here in our first full day in Jerez, a lovely, laidback city in Cadiz Province in Andalucía,[1] a solution to the over development of South Carolina’s Lowcountry dawned on me, plopped upon my head like that proverbial Newtonian apple.

The county councils of Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties should impose mandatory siestas from 3 to 6 pm every day of the week. [cue John and Yoko’s “Imagine.”]

For example, here is a normally busy street in Jerez at 4 pm.  And let me tell you, it’s as quiet as it is empty.

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In my dream world where Americans love themselves more than lucre, business chains in the Lowcountry would relocate for the sake of shareholders because 3 hours of closure each day would harm the bottom line. With fewer people, traffic with its incumbent pollution (air and sound) would decrease.  Workers and school children could nap, listen to music, watch soap operas, or catch up on homework.  Returning refreshed, their productivity would soar, and the nighttime, so squandered in the USA, could be reclaimed as a time of comingling with humans outside the narrow confines of condo or apartment (not to mention ranch home or McMansion).

Of course, the odds of this happening are as unlikely as Clemson deciding to change the school colors from orange to fuchsia or Donald J Trump coming up with a nugget of self-deprecating humor.

Suggested example: Trump to Kim:  You’re having a bad hair day!  Christ, you don’t know the meaning of bad hair day.

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Nevertheless, in the world of retirement, where I am the master of my time and I can enjoy socialized medicine, I shall live like an Andalucían.

After a my extended nap, I’ll ride my bicycle to Chico Feo (but not Taco Boy).


Fun Facts/ Personal Notes

People here speak with a lisp.  Cerveza is pronounced cerveztha and gracias, gracthia (no-s).

Like in Germany (and probably every other country in Europe), you get a ticket from a parking meter machine and place it on your dashboard.

Here are a couple of photos of our two-bedroom apartment (hat tip to Charlie and Caroline for finding and booking it).

And here’s a photo of Caroline, Brooks, and Charlie.

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Charlie, by the way, has recently become a bit of a celebrity in Spain.  Here are a couple of reasons:

Check him out.


[1]I suspect calling any city in Andalucia laidback reeks of redundancy.

A Footnote to the Previous Post RE Bill Clinton and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A not-so-quick footnote to yesterday’s post:  During the Reagan Administration, Garcia Marquez was labeled a subversive and denied visas to enter the US.  After Clinton was elected President, he lifted the travel ban.  Here’s a snippet from an article from Salon that is no longer available detailing Garcia Marquez’s first meeting with Clinton at William Styron’s house with the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes also in attendance:

Garcia Marquez with Clinton

Dinner began at 8, with some 14 guests around the table, and lasted until midnight.  Bit by bit, the conversation came down to a kind of literary round table involving the president and the three writers.  The first topic that came up was the forthcoming Summit of the Americas.  Clinton had wanted it held in Miami, where it did take place.  Carlos Fuentes considered that New Orleans or Los Angles had stronger historical claims, and he and I argued strongly for them until it became clear that the president had no intention of changing his plans because he was counting on reelection support from Miami.

“Forget the votes, Mr. President,” Carlos said to him.  “Lose Florida and make history.”  That phrase set the tone.  When he spoke of the problem of narco-traffic, the president heard me out generously.

“Thirty million drug addicts in the US go to show that the North American mafia are more powerful than those in Colombia, and the authorities much more corrupt.”  When I spoke to him about relations with Cuba, he seemed more receptive.  “If Fidel and you could sit and talk face to face, all problems would completely disappear.”

When we talked about Latin America in general, we realized that he was much more interested than we supposed, although he lacked some essential background.  When the conversation stiffened a bit, we asked him what his favorite movie was, and he answered “High Noon,” by Fred Zimmerman, whom he had recently honored in London.  When we asked him what he was reading, he sighed and mentioned a book on economic wars of the future, author and title unknown to me.

“Better to read ‘Don Quixote,” I said to him.  “Everything’s in there.” Now the ‘Quixote’ is a book that is not read nearly as much as is claimed, although very few admit to not having read it.  With two or three quotes, Clinton showed that he knew it very well indeed.  Responding, he asked us what our favorite books were.  Styron said his was “Huckleberry Finn.”

I would have said “Oedipus Rex,” which has been my bed table book for the last 20 years, but I named “The Count of Monte Cristo,” mainly for reasons of technique, which I had some trouble explaining.

Clinton said his was the “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,” and Carlos Fuentes stuck loyally to “Absalom, Absalom,” Faulkner’s stellar novel, no question, although others would choose “Light in August” for purely personal reasons.  Clinton, in homage to Faulkner, got to his feet and, pacing around the table, recited from memory Benji’s monologue, the most thrilling passage, and perhaps the most hermetic, from “The Sound and the Fury.”

Faulkner got us talking about the affinities between Caribbean writers and the cluster of great Southern novelists of the United States.  It made much more sense to us to think of the Caribbean not as a geographical region surrounded by its sea but as a much wider historical and cultural belt stretching from the north of Brazil to the Mississippi Basin.

Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and so many others would then be just as Caribbean as Jorge Amado and Derek Walcott. Clinton, born and raised in Arkansas, a Southern state, applauded the notion and professed himself happy to be a Caribbean.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez