The Odd Pot

Barry & Bill

TODAY’S TOPIC is two guys who are totally different.

Barry Hussein Obama of the Oval Office and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. In most areas, I oppose the former and support the latter. But there are exceptions, which is why I am not a textbook conservative.

barryLet’s look first at Cuba. Barry is tearing down the wall between America and Cuba. Yes, Barry blinked first, and that’s a good thing because the shunning of Cuba has gone on far too long.

It can be argued that the Castro regime would have collapsed by now were it not for the U.S. embargo, which endured so long due to the Cuban expats in Florida, a state with lots of heft in the Electoral College.

True, Barry got little from the Castros in return for blinking, but no matter. Someone had to blink. I salute Barry for that. As have almost all the former dictatorships in Latin America, Cuba will liberalize, but in a positive way.

First, the Castro boys have to die, and that won’t be a long time coming.

Barry just did another good thing. He is freeing 46 imprisoned felons, most incarcerated for drug crimes, some for life, because they were nonviolent offenders. Most, I’m assuming, are black, which is why, of course, Barry is taking the action. It’s a race thing for him. Be assured.

The War on Drugs, started in the Nixon Administration, is a total failure, creating far more problems than it solves, and that’s assuming it solves any problems whatsoever, which I doubt. Any 12-year-old who wants drugs can get them easily today on the streets of America.

Outlawing anything that people really want  will invariably create a crime wave and violence. It happened during the Prohibition of the 1920s — the War on Booze, a perfect analogy to the War on Drugs.

You cannot outlaw sex, chocolate, cigarettes, booze or drugs, and only a nation with a Puritanical streak would even attempt it. It is dumb.

Try to restrict it to adults, tax it brutally, whatever, but if you attempt to eliminate it, you will come to utter grief.

billSo hurrah to Barry for liberating some drug dealers, especially those with life sentences. O’Reilly thinks this is a bad idea.

He supports the War on Drugs. He cites reasons that could equally apply to another War on Booze. There is not a single thing you can say against drug addicts that you can not equally state against alcoholics.

Wrecked families, careers, violence, crime, rest equally in the grip of alcoholism as they do in the embrace of drug addiction. Both are grave problems, but most people drink responsibly and — and you may not believe this — many, probably most, people use drugs responsibly.

So Barry has freed some non-violent drug dealers who should not have been imprisoned in the first place, certainly not for life, and he’s cracked the wall between the United States and Communist Cuba, proving he’s not a complete, brain-dead doofus.

And I don’t know how O’Reilly feels about the opening to Cuba.

He is almost certainly against it. An error.

The Odd Pot

The cameraman

I’M INTERESTED in taking better photos. I’ll need a new camera. My current ride is a Kodak Easyshare, inexpensive, but it works fine.

Except for one thing: It only zooms to 3X, which doesn’t get you very far, literally. It does have 16 megapixels, which means the photos are pretty sharp, but the zoom’s gotta go a lot farther.

I’ve asked some good photographers I know for camera recommendations. The Gold Standard is Billie Mercer, but that was like asking Donald Trump for a restaurant recommendation: First, take the Learjet to Paris … have the limo waiting on the tarmac.  Billie is way past my pay grade.

I’d have to rob a bank.

I ran into the same problem with Kim G. and Steve Cotton, good photographers both. But wealthy guys with sterling gear.

1406627638-md-canonpowershotsx520hs4
The Canon

I’m just a poor, humble Mexican.

A recommendation more in my fiscal comfort zone, a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ200, came from Angeline, but I opted for a Canon Powershot SX520, which is similar.

A slightly pricier version, the SX60 HS, had been recommended by Jack Brock who is, by the way, one of the world’s premier wood sculptors.

Then came the issue of getting the camera into my hands. I looked around my mountaintop to no avail. I imagine I could have found it down the slope in the state capital, but this is 2015, so I looked online.

First, I went to Mercado Libre (Free Market), a longtime website that connects Mexican buyers and retailers. I found the Canon readily available and was on the verge of buying it when I thought of Amazon, which just weeks ago opened its Mexican operation.

I love Amazon, capitalism at its finest. I found the camera for just a few pesos more, free delivery, and ordered it. They promised it by Friday.

One of the reasons I decided to get a better camera is a new photo website, Eyes of the Moon, I’ve opened on Tumblr.

At the moment, I’ve added a few of my older photos, but when the new camera arrives, expect more. They will all be black and white, which captures a certain elegance, plus it reflects my grim personality.

Maybe I’ll become a papparazzi. I’m so ancient, with white hair and glasses, perhaps nobody will punch me out.

* * * *

(Note: Also on Tumblr, you’ll find my other recent addition, Satellite Moon, progressing nicely. It’s a politics-free zone, all sweetness and light.)

The Odd Pot

Catholic steeples and peoples

church

I LIVE AMONG steeples, and all of them are Catholic. Oh, there are other religions, usually referred to as “Christian” because most Mexicans, deep in their hearts, bizarrely do not regard Catholicism as a Christian religion.

It’s just Catholicism, period, the one accurate Voice of God.

Other religions are Christian, or cristianos  in español. Perhaps in the big cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey and Mexico City people recognize Methodists, Baptists and so on, but here on the mountaintop we just have “the” religion of Catholicism and cristianos  who sometimes behave like Holy Rollers because they are really joyful.

Catholics are not joyful. They are somber, especially when walking on their knees over rocks to demonstrate their seriousness and love of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

The cristianos sometimes parade in the streets, all shucking and jiving. Catholics never shuck and jive.

We also have Jehovah’s Witnesses who enjoy ringing doorbells and annoying people. My child bride’s evil stepmother and a number of her half-siblings have gone over to the dark side of Jehovah’s Witnessing.

I enjoy watching Catholicism even though I’m no believer, especially now with Pope Francis who appears to be an ignoramus. The Catholics excel at religious architecture and, as I was driving up a downtown hill today, I noticed this view. So I got out of the car and snapped it.

The Baptists, Methodists and certainly not the Jehovah’s Witnesses lack the Catholics’ architectural spirit.

The Odd Pot

Ancient history

BEING A SHARING sort of fellow, I thought it would be nice to show these photos from ancient history. You may have seen one or more before because, frankly, my memory ain’t so good, and never has been.

kiss

This first shot shows me kissing my parakeet. One must kiss parakeets to keep them content. I look to be about 8 years old.

I remember that chair, and I know where the photo was shot. It had only been about a year since my mother, father, sister and I had left Granny’s farm in Georgia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where my father got back into the newspaper business after his six-year failed attempt to make it as a pulp-magazine writer.

We moved first into an old second-floor walk-up on Osceola Street, but we didn’t stay there but a few months. Then we moved into a much nicer, two-story rental nearby on Herschel Street. It had a huge yard to play in. That photo above was taken in the living room on Herschel.

plane

I’m licensed to fly small planes if they don’t have more than one propeller. I guess two propellers would confuse me. No matter. I do not fly anymore even though the license is still good.

But it clearly was in my genes as evidenced by the second photo, which was taken, well, I do not remember. Nary a clue. I don’t appear to be much older than I was when I kissed that parakeet.

Prom

Flash forward a few years. We had moved from Herschel Street across the St. Johns River to the bedroom community of Arlington where my parents bought a humble, one-story, three-bedroom ranch house painted aquamarine at 2030 Cesery Boulevard.

This photo was from the Senior Prom at Terry Parker High School in 1961, but I was not a senior. My date was, and I was stepping into the lurch. She lived just around the corner from us and her scheduled date had backed out at the last minute after she’d bought her prom dress.

Her mother spoke to my mother who spoke to me, and the next thing I knew I was in a white coat and black pants and posing for a photo before a paddle boat on some distant Southern river reeking of magnolias.

Her name is Johna and she is now retired from a career with the Duval County Sheriff’s Department in Florida.

The following year I was a senior, but I skipped the prom.

I thought I was a Beatnik by then.

AF

I was 16 in the prom photo, and I am 19 here, standing with my roommate in our barracks at Castle Air Force Base outside Merced, California. The other guy was Adrian Landres who was not wrapped too tightly and later was discharged for psychiatric reasons.

He was a year older than me, and about five years ago I saw his obituary online. There was no mention of the cause of death.

Adrian and I were two of a group of three guys who were quite tight during my Air Force time in California. I lost track of Adrian in the late 1970s because he was not a communicator.

The third of the trio was Gilbert Gorodiscas who had been born in Sant Amant, France, and migrated to America at the age of 14.

Both of these guys were Jewish.

bike

Here are the three of us sitting atop an Indian trike motorcycle in the yard of Adrian’s parents in Redondo Beach, California, in 1964. The trike belonged to Adrian. That’s me on the right and Gilbert behind striking his best French fop pose, which he did often, especially for the ladies.

Never did him much good.

Gilbert married a woman he met during a stopover in New Orleans on his way to a base in the Caribbean where they lived for a spell. She was a sultry, New Orleans, Latina “Yat,” who are the people who live in the city’s Ninth Ward. They’re famous for asking: “Where y’at?”

I was living in New Orleans by that time, going to the university, and I introduced the two of them. Her name was Joanie Ruiz.

Joanie’s daddy was a Dixie Beer truck driver, and I loved visiting her parents’ Ninth Ward shotgun because daddy kept a second fridge jam-packed with Dixie Beer which he got free, so you could drink all you wanted on sweltering summer days, or any day, for that matter.

They divorced about a decade later, proving yet again that multiculturalism usually ends badly. He was a blond European Jew, and she was a Catholic Yat, but he still lives in New Orleans, running his own chemical-supply company, something he’s done for decades.

Jews are good at business.

Joanie remarried, but he never did.

* * * *

In the late 1960s, my first wife, my daughter and I were living in New Orleans, and Adrian came to visit, riding a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle all the way from Redondo Beach.

He stayed with us for a time, but his habit of lounging around the apartment in his underwear did not sit well with my wife, understandably, so we had to ask him to leave, and he got his own place where he lived a few months, driving a Yellow Cab for cash, before returning to the West Coast.

In the mid-1970s, I was passing through Southern California, and I visited Adrian. He had married a woman whose two front teeth were missing, and they were living with his parents in Moorpark. Adrian was working as a projectionist in a movie theater, the only occupation I ever knew him to have outside the Air Force.

After that visit, we totally lost touch.

dad

Lastly and many years later, the late 1980s, I’m standing with my father inside a Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia. This was about three years before he died in 1991 at age 75 of a heart attack. Though he failed to realize his youthful dream of being a pulp-magazine writer, he did become an excellent — famous even — haiku poet in his last years.

And with that, we’ll close the photo album for now.