This is the third and latest short film that I’ve either written or co-written with Juan Carlos Hernandez for his production company, Popcorn Sky Productions. It’s a comedy about a politically-divided family in New York City during the Trump era.
This amusing and enjoyable short depicts the fireworks that erupt when the Ronderos’ son Jerry (Anthony James Hernandez) comes home from college for a visit. Mom Veronica (“Ronnie”), played by Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez, lays down the law to her husband Guillermo (Juan Carlos Hernandez): no talking, not even whispering, about politics.
Although Juan was gracious enough to give me the sole writing credit for Ronnie, the truth is that much of the finished film was based on on-the-spot rewrites by the cast and crew in New York. I was asked to go to the Big Apple to be on hand, but I couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket plus a long extended stay at a hotel. So even though I was consulted, Juan, Adria, and Anthony had to rework the story and script to make Ronnie work well as a comedy with some serious commentary about the divisiveness in Trump-era America.
The film is 22 minutes long, but it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I think it’s both hilarious and relevant.
If you have not watched it yet, here it is, in all its YouTube glory.
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s mid-morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Friday, November 26, 2021. It is a chilly late fall day here in the Sunshine state, a reminder that meteorological winter is only a few days off (astronomical winter, or the winter solstice, is still a few weeks away; it doesn’t fall until December 21). Currently, the temperature is 55˚F (13˚C) under sunny conditions. With a becalmed wind and humidity at 95%, the wind-chill factor is 54˚F (12˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 77˚F (25˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 46˚F (8˚C).
Highlights from Thanksgiving 2021
Last night, of course, we had Thanksgiving dinner – one of only three occasions in which my strange “new family” (for lack of a better term) sits together to share a meal – in the Caregiver’s formal dining room. There were seven of us present – eight if you include Sandy the Wonder Schnauzer: the Caregiver, her boyfriend, her older son (the Gamer with the cigarette habit), her middle son (the guy who has the upstairs loft), her daughter (the college frosh/Target employee), and her Cuban-born, U.S.-raised boyfriend. And, of course, I was there, too.
We had the usual fare for Thanksgiving – turkey, green beans casserole, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, gravy, stuffing, and regular mashed potatoes. This year the Caregiver did not make wild rice – she said it usually goes to waste since few of us (I’m one!) like to eat it.
After dinner, everyone went their separate ways – we didn’t sit around the dinner table catching up or anything. The only nod to tradition came when the Caregiver asked each one of us to say something brief about what we were thankful for.
When it was my turn, I said:
I’d like to thank the Academy for….
Oops. Wrong speech. I thought I was at the Academy Awards accepting the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
I’m thankful for….not having any toxic people in my life.
(In my defense, we didn’t do this “what are we thankful for” routine when my mom presided over Thanksgiving. I don’t remember any huge gatherings at our house for this particular holiday, and Mom wasn’t one to stand on traditions that she wasn’t raised with.)
After dinner – the Caregiver had bought three pies but didn’t serve any – we adjourned. I started to watch TV in my room – the Caregiver and the boyfriend invited me to watch The Beach with them, but I declined – and promptly fell asleep. It wasn’t that late – we finished eating around 9 PM Eastern – but I fell asleep while watching The Age of Tanks on Netflix.
The drawback to falling asleep that early was, of course, that I woke up early today. It was cold in my room, and someone had left the kitchenette light on, so those two factors roused me from sleep at 5:20 AM. Ugh. So I got up, put a bottle of chocolate-flavored Boost in the fridge to cool, and booted up my PC after turning off some lights that were left on all night in other rooms of the house.
So. There you have it: a brief and somewhat superficial account of my sixth Thanksgiving without my blood relatives. Predictable, undramatic, and relatively free of negativity.
Musings & Thoughts for Friday, November 26, 2021
As I mentioned earlier, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5:20 AM (three hours and 29 minutes ago – as I write this). It’s cold, it’s eerily quiet, and pretty soon I will walk to the kitchen and at least brew some coffee. I’ll probably eat a slice or two of panettone since I doubt we have any Cheerios left.
Today I will receive my Criterion Collection Blu-ray of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a 1964 French-West German film directed by Jacques Demy. It’s a musical that, unlike most Broadway-style musicals, is a “sing-through” work in which every line of dialogue is delivered through song. Set between 1958 and 1963, this thoroughly French story stars Catherine Deneuve (in one of her first major roles),Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, and Ellen Farner.
An angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve was launched into stardom by this glorious musical heart-tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. Exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through the lilting songs of the great composer Michel Legrand, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the most revered and unorthodox movie musicals of all time.
Since this is a Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg also includes primo extra features:
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES -2K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack –Once Upon a Time . . . “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” a 2008 documentary -Interview from 2014 with film scholar Rodney Hill -French television interview from 1964 featuring director Jacques Demy and composer Michel Legrand discussing the film -Audio recordings of interviews with actor Catherine Deneuve (1983) and Legrand (1991) at the National Film Theatre in London -Restoration demonstration -Trailer -PLUS: An essay by critic Jim Ridley
I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg only once when Miami’s PBS station WPBT (Channel 2) aired it…sometime in the 1990s, was it? I don’t remember exactly, but I have not seen it since. I obviously like it – otherwise, I wouldn’t have ordered it. I especially love the music by Academy Award-winning composer Michel Legrand, and one of its songs –“Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi”/ I Will Wait for You – became a popular song in the early 1960s. The English language lyrics were written by American lyricist Norman Gimbel, and I Will Wait for You was covered by several well-known singers and musical groups, including Connie Francis, Steve Lawrence, Dick Hyman, Ray Conniff and His Orchestra and Chorus, John Williams and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Lawrence Welk and Orchestra.
My copy arrived at the nearby Amazon distribution center yesterday morning, so it should be placed in a delivery vehicle around 11 or so this morning and it should be here in the afternoon. I hope it gets here in the early afternoon, though today is Black Friday…I wouldn’t want to bet on it. Amazon says it should be here by 10 PM tonight, but the delivery van usually gets to this neighborhood between 3 and 6 PM.
I was tempted to order the Blu-ray set of The Office: The Complete Series from Amazon for Black Friday. The price is tempting: $89.97 (list price: $106.03). But my anti-virus subscription and a couple of December pre-orders already used up my quota of non-essential expenses for December, so I’ll have to wait till at least January. Oh, well. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Oh, and for those of you who are history-minded, today is the 80th anniversary of the day that Japan’s Kido Butai, the six-carrier striking force that launched the infamous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941. Under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku, along with an escort of two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and eight destroyers, departed Hittokapu Bay on Kasatka (now Iterup) Island in the Kuril Islands, en route to a position northwest of Hawaii.
It’s hard to believe that 80 years have passed since that task force – the most powerful array of naval air power assembled at the time – began its transpacific rendezvous with destiny…and guaranteed Japan’s ultimate defeat in the Asia-Pacific War. And yet, here we are.
Well, I don’t have anything else to share, so I’ll close for now, Dear Reader. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated (if you haven’t already!) and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 I find this argument to be ironic since we are more than likely going to have to throw away most of the leftovers today. Instead of storing the uneaten portions of the dinner (especially the turkey) after we ate, the Caregiver and her boyfriend decided to watch The Beach in what I call the Common Room. The young adults scattered to their respective rooms, and I can’t put away all that food on my own. So everything is just sitting on that dining room table, inviting all kinds of bacteria to make their home there. And, of course, the Caregiver and her beau are asleep.
 Speaking of Pearl Harbor, I am still annoyed – and amused – by the revelation in the book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America that the former President did not know what happened at Pearl Harbor or why it was such a world-changing event. Then again, we live in a world where science denial and history denial are still “things.”
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida. It is a cold end-of-autumn day. Currently, the temperature is 65˚F (19˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 6 MPH (10 KM/H) and humidity at 85%, the wind chill factor Is 62˚F (17˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 77˚F (25˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 55˚F (13˚C).
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, its territories, and dependencies. And as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, preparations are apace for tonight’s traditional turkey dinner. The menu is nearly identical to last year’s, except that this year the Caregiver is not going to make wild rice as one of the side dishes.
As for Your Humble Correspondent?
I don’t have much to say about my life, really. Today I woke up earlier than I wanted – 5:20 AM Eastern Time – and although I tried to fall asleep again, I was up and about at 5:50 AM. It was colder then, and since I’m not terribly fond of cold temperatures, I tossed and turn and tried to cover myself with the blankets I have, but to no avail.
As a result, I’m sleepy and tired. And because I feel like a fifth wheel around here, I’m not enthusiastic about today being Thanksgiving. I’ll feel better once I have some coffee – but on the whole I’d rather be….elsewhere.
On the brighter side of things, tomorrow I’ll be getting my Criterion Collection Blu-ray of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg). This is a 1964 film by French director Jacques Demy, and it’s a “sing-through” musical starring Catherine Deneuve (in what I think was her movie debut) and Nino Castelnuovo. It’s a French film – one of the few foreign language films in my collection – but it has English subtitles.
An umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter glows with first love for a handsome garage mechanic. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly.
The regular price of this 2017 Blu-ray release is $39.99, but it’s on sale for 50% off, so I snapped it up on Amazon on Tuesday night.
Because today is Thanksgiving, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg won’t be here until tomorrow. No big deal. I still remember when Amazon orders took a week to get to my Miami home. It didn’t bother me then, and one day’s wait due to a holiday is not going to kill me. I have plenty of other movies to watch as it is.
Well, that’s all the news I have to share for now. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. It’s a cold late fall day. Currently, the temperature is 64˚F (18˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 69% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 12 MPH (19 KM/H), the wind-chill factor is 62˚F (17˚C). Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 73˚F (23˚C). Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 55˚F (13˚C).
Well, with less than one day to go before Thanksgiving 2021, it seems like the Caregiver has things under control even though she has to work from her home office today. In years past, she was able to ask her supervisors at the county courthouse for the day off on the Wednesday before Turkey Day, but this year too many of her colleagues also asked for today off, so the Caregiver is one of the few employees who have to keep the wheels of the county judicial system running. She was a bit disappointed with her lot, but she is a team player and will plow ahead from her remote office in the master bedroom until 5 PM.
One of the things I’ve noticed about the Caregiver is that she is a stickler for tradition when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. This means that our group of eight will be having the following dishes:
Homemade mashed potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows
I’ve spent six Thanksgiving seasons with the Caregiver and her family; when I still lived in Miami in 2015, we celebrated it at her sister’s apartment in Kendall, and although there are always a few minor variations depending on how many people are present, this is the basic menu for Thanksgiving.
In sharp contrast, my late mother was more flexible about Thanksgiving menus, partly because she didn’t become accustomed to American holidays until she was in her 30s – she was born and raised in Colombia, and they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving outside the smallish American ex-pat community there. Mostly, though, she deviated from the “turkey-for-the-occasion” norm because the “bird” was not her favorite meal to prepare or eat.
Instead of turkey, Mom often preferred to make roast beef with potatoes, although she often added Thanksgiving staples such as mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green beans, Stove Top stuffing, and pumpkin pie. If she opted to bow to tradition – which she did a few times before she got sick late in 2009 – she would buy a turkey breast instead of an entire bird. This was because, as I pointed out in yesterday’s blog post, my half-sister Vicky often chose to work at the hospital on Thanksgiving night so she could have Christmas Eve off instead. An entire turkey – even a small one – was wasted on Mom and me, especially since it wasn’t one of our favorite dishes.
In any case, it looks as though our annual Thanksgiving holiday preparations are going smoothly.
Well, that’s all I have to report on today, so I will close for now. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 Mom always said that because turkey often tastes bland – especially the white meat – it is a particularly tricky dish to make. She could do it because she was a great cook, but only if she knew we were going to have a few more people over as guests.
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. It is a chilly – by Florida standards, at any rate – day. Currently, the temperature is 58˚F (14˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 68% and the wind blowing from the north at 11 MPH (18 KM/H), it feels like 56˚F (14˚C). The forecast for today calls for sunny skies and a high of 67˚F (19˚C). Tonight, skies will be clear. The low will be 45˚F (7˚C).
As Thanksgiving 2021 approaches – it’s less than two days off now – and the days grow ever shorter, I try hard to recall the happy observances of the holiday with my blood family, i.e. Mom, Vicky, and Yours Truly before my mother’s last five years of life. (I, for obvious reasons, don’t count 2010-2014. Those are, by default, the “Nightmare Years.”)
And to be honest, I have come to the conclusion that the best Thanksgiving nights we had in Miami were those when it was just Mom and me, or Mom, guests of Mom, and me, in attendance.
First, I have to explain that celebrations of Turkey Day with my half-sister in the mix were rare before the 2010s, and this was a personal choice of my older half-sibling, especially when she worked – per her preference – on the night shift at the big hospitals where she worked the longest, i.e. American Hospital (later Kendall Regional Hospital) and Pan American Hospital, aka Metropolitan Hospital.
Vicky has never loved the United States much; when Mom and I were told by doctors in Bogota, Colombia that it might be best if we moved back to Miami – for medical reasons – after I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage not long after my ninth birthday, Vicky refused to come along and stayed at our maternal great-aunt Gabriela’s apartment. She only joined us in South Florida less than a year afterward as a result of pressure from our grandparents – her behavior was causing our family some embarrassment, so in order to avoid more drama, Vicky was forced to leave her beloved Bogota and move to Miami – a move that she has always resented me for.
Even though Vicky reluctantly became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1996, she considers herself to be more Colombian than American (I’m the other way ‘round, especially because I was born in the States.) As a result, she is less than enthusiastic about this country’s traditions and symbols, and she was never known for her love of Thanksgiving Day. Thus, when she had to choose which holiday she wanted off from her nursing job at any of the hospitals where she worked, she always picked Christmas and worked on Thanksgiving.
Accordingly, for most of the Thanksgiving dinners Mom and I shared in our last two houses between 1972 and 2009, Vicky was noticeably absent.
There were, of course, a few occasions when one of Vicky’s fellow nurses wanted to swap holidays and asked to work on Thanksgiving. I can’t – for the life of me – remember how many times Vicky had a Thanksgiving Day reprieve from work, but I do recall that either she would make plans with other people and not eat dinner with us, or she would cause drama –fueled by her consuming lots of vodka with tonic water – that marred the holiday for everyone in some fashion.
As a matter of fact, the last time I ever stepped into Vicky’s apartment in the International Gardens complex was for a Thanksgiving dinner at her place in the early 2000s – the only one she ever hosted for Mom and me. And, boy, it was a disaster.
For starters, I didn’t want to go. Vicky’s place is small (a one-bedroom apartment which she always keeps at a temperature that is only a tad warmer than Siberia in winter), and since we were not getting along even then, I wanted to stay home and watch a movie while eating pizza or something.
Second, Vicky loves to drink booze in prodigious quantities. She’ll drink anything, but her two favorite beverages are vodka and red wine. And because she doesn’t much care for DUI laws or sacrificing one night of drinking to be a designated driver, I didn’t look forward to seeing Vicky get smashed on vodka and Lord knows what else she planned to consume before, during, and after dinner.
Third – and this is where the small size of the apartment and the alcohol become relevant to this story – her only guest besides my mom and me that evening was her paternal cousin Andres Pereira.
I don’t know if Andres lives permanently in Miami now, but at the time – 2005, I think it was – he split his time between his native Bogota and South Florida. And like many of the Colombians that I know, he also loves his liquor and is a bit of a scofflaw when it comes to local laws about booze and cars.
So our dinner party consisted of us just four: Andres, Vicky, Mom, and me. Of those four, three could drive; I don’t drive. Never learned. And of the three drivers, none – not even Mom – were willing to abstain from drinking that night.
And if that wasn’t enough, since Vicky and Andres picked Mom and me up in Vicky’s Toyota sedan already drinking, that Thanksgiving started on a sour note even before we got to Vicky’s apartment.
As I said earlier, Andres lived in Bogota at least for part of the year, and even though there are DUI laws in Colombia, I know some folks that blatantly ignore them because its culturally fine to drink alcohol and drive so long as you don’t get caught. Andres is obviously one of these persons because the first sign of how the evening was going to go was the sight of an open can of Coors beer in the beverage holder between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat upfront.
Mom saw the can of beer first as she was getting into the back seat of Vicky’s silver-gray Toyota. She froze in her tracks, not sure whether she wanted to go to dinner or stay home. She weighed the pros and cons of getting out of the car and going back into the townhouse – and settled for going. This was the first time Vicky had invited us over for Thanksgiving.
Still, Mom was not a big believer in staying quiet when she saw wrongdoing, so as soon as we were both settled in the back of Vicky’s car, she decided to say something.
“You know, Vicky, that it’s illegal to even have an open container of beer or wine when you’re driving a car, right?”
Vicky pretended not to hear, but her cousin turned around with a carefree smile and said, “Oh, Tia, you have to be joking. It’s only a beer, for the love of God.”
“This is not Bogota, Andres,” Mom said. “Do you want your cousin to get a ticket for drinking and driving? Huh?”
Andres scoffed and muttered something about stupid gringo laws, but he made no further effort to drink while we were on the road and even hid the can so no one could see it easily from the outside. No more was said about the beer during the drive to Vicky’s place, but the mood for this Thanksgiving was already turning ugly.
The situation did not improve when we got to Vicky’s second-floor apartment at the International Gardens complex. As soon as we sat on my half-sister’s living room sofa, Vicky poured three large vodka and tonics for Andres, Mom, and herself. (I asked for a Coke.) In the time it took Mom and me to consume our beverages, Vicky and Andres had downed at least two vodkas and were showing hints that they were getting intoxicated. (Vicky stumbled a bit…Andres became more effusive and had a “Hey, let’s get more into a party mood here!” vibe.)
Mom drank her vodka with tonic, but not with any enthusiasm. I sipped at my Coke, wondering how long it would be until dinner was served so we could go home. It looked to me as though we still had at least a couple of hours until that happened, and I kept on looking at the clock on Vicky’s kitchen wall, hoping that time would pass quickly and that no further incident would rear its ugly head.
Alas. It was not to be. Time slowed to a crawl – from my perspective, anyway – and an incident did occur.
One of Vicky’s weird obsessions at the time was her desire to repair a long-standing breach between her paternal Aunt Emma and our mother. The two former sisters-in-law had remained friends for many years after Mom’s marriage with Vicky’s father, Manuel Pineros, was annulled in Colombia in the Fifties. Emma moved to Miami in the 1960s and studied nursing. Eventually, she got a job at what was then called Pan American Hospital and became its head of the nursing staff. And for many years – until, I don’t know, 1979? – she was a frequent and welcome presence in our last two Miami houses.
Until, for no apparent reason, Emma stopped talking to Mom and ended their decades-long friendship.
That night, Vicky convinced herself that if she could somehow get my mother and her aunt to speak to each other, everything would be right with the world. Heck, Emma might even be willing to join us for dinner that night.
As I said, Vicky was downing tall tumblers of vodka and tonic water as if there was no tomorrow. She was getting that unfocused look that heavily inebriated people get when they overindulge, and Vicky even stumbled – visibly – once or twice while trying to convince my mother to call Emma and ask her to come over for dinner.
Mom – after enduring a long impassioned (and rambling) plea from my now-drunk half-sister that bordered on a harangue worthy of Fidel Castro’s – finally acquiesced and called Emma from Vicky’s kitchen phone.
And…immediately got hung up on by her ex-sister-in-law, who wanted nothing to do with Mom or my half-sister’s hopes to reconcile the two.
Now, my mother had a patience that bordered on the saintly but calling someone on the phone only to get hung up on for her pains was too much.
“Vicky,” Mom said in a quiet but firm voice, “don’t ever do that to me again. I don’t know why your aunt is mad at me or why she decided to end the friendship, but it’s clear that she doesn’t want to speak to me. Just let it go because I’m not going to call Emma again”
If you’ve read any of my family history posts about my troubled relationship with Vicky, you know that most of our altercations, arguments, or “episodes” took place when she was sober or nearly so. Thus, if Sober Vicky is stubborn, easily riled, and obnoxious, multiply these traits by ten and you can imagine how Drunk Vicky behaves.
Glassy-eyed, red-faced, and beyond all reason, Vicky did not let the matter drop. She picked up the phone, dialed Emma’s number, and pleaded, nay, demanded, that she talk to Mom and end the decades-long rift – a rift my mom had not wanted or initiated.
I have bad hearing, but my mom had the acuity of a bat – or so it seemed to me. She later told me that she could hear Emma saying, “Vicky, shut up. You’re drunk again, aren’t you?” over the Princess phone’s receiver. After a brief exchange of words punctuated by Vicky’s tears of frustrated anger and grief, Emma hung up on my half-sister.
Mom stood up and grabbed her purse. Looking at me, she said, “Alex, call a taxi. We’re leaving.”
“What?!” Vicky half-slurred, half-shouted. “You can’t go! I haven’t even served dinner!”
“You should have thought about that before you came up with this crazy idea to call your aunt knowing full well that she doesn’t want anything to do with either me or your brother.” She looked at me and saw that I was still seated on the sofa, not daring to try to get past Vicky, who stood between me and the phone in the kitchen. “Alex, please. Call a taxi. I had a few drinks already, so even if we had come in my car, I can’t drive. I have cash in my wallet. Go. Call a cab. Yellow Cab. Diamond Cab. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just go home.”
Vicky glared at me as she blocked my path to the phone in the kitchen. I didn’t want to risk a physical confrontation, so I turned around and made my way to her bedroom, where she had another phone on her nightstand. I dialed the number to Yellow Cab and told the dispatcher to send a taxi to Vicky’s apartment building.
All the while, Vicky was raging. “You can’t do this! It’s my Thanksgiving! You can’t leave!”
Andres, for his part, was trying to play “peacemaker,” trying on one hand to calm his infuriated cousin while, on the other hand, pleading to my mom and me to stay and have dinner with Vicky and him.
“Ay, Tia Mona. Please stay,” Andres said over and over. “Don’t go home yet. Dinner will be ready in about an hour.”
My mom was a softhearted and loving person and was not known to be unfair or unreasonable. But she did not like being manipulated or insulted, much less coerced to do something she did not want to do. She had tried, in good faith and despite her doubts, to talk to Emma and been rebuffed. Now all she wanted to do was get away from Vicky’s apartment and go back home.
“I’m very sorry, Andres,” Mom said. “Vicky is behaving like a brat, and she’s much too old for that kind of behavior. We’re going home.”
I stepped out of Vicky’s bedroom and looked warily at my half-sister, who was leaning unsteadily in front of the foyer in a half-hearted effort to block our way.
“You can’t go!” she cried. “You can’t!”
To his credit, Andres pulled Vicky aside and allowed us to walk past them, open the door, walk out of the apartment, and head toward the elevator. Wordlessly – we were too stunned to speak – Mom and I waited at the entrance to the apartment building until our cab arrived and drove us home.
I don’t remember what Mom and I ate for Thanksgiving dinner on that weird night. We probably improvised a quick meal, though it’s also possible that I ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut. But I still recall that weird and unnerving two-hour period in my half-sister’s apartment – a place that I never set foot in again.
 You’ve heard of Andres Pereira before; he is the late Juan Manuel Pereira’s youngest brother, and he is the one who helped Vicky make off with my grandmother’s set of fine dinnerware in the summer of 2015.
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Monday, November 22, 2021. It is a gray and cool autumn day. Currently, the temperature is 68˚F (20˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 96% and the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 6 MPH (10 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 68˚F (20˚C). Today’s forecast calls for light rain throughout the day. The high will be 77˚F (25˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 53˚F (12˚C).
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving 2021 is only three days away. It’s harder to believe that this is the sixth occurrence of the holiday since my mother died in 2015, and my fifth here in the Gulf Coast area. But if past Thanksgivings here are a guide to the upcoming one on Thursday, this year should be uneventful and drama-free.
The last Thanksgiving I celebrated with my “blood family” – my late mom and my estranged half-sister -is now seven years in the Rearview Mirror of Life and receding quickly; I remember it was a joyless, strained, and forced occasion – Mom was confined to the small bedroom where she lived during the last five years of her life; Vicky, my half-sibling, was lording it over us because she made all of the arrangements that day; the home health aide was working on a Sunday schedule because it was a holiday so she was only at the house for an hour; Vicky’s friends Gloria, Roberto, and Julian were the only guests; and there was a lot of tension between Vicky and me.
You know, even though I do not miss Vicky, I do think about her on occasion, especially during the holiday season and dates that used to be family celebrations, such as our respective birthdays in March, Mother’s Day, and Mom’s birthday. I stopped communicating with her before she left on her October 2015 trip to Bogota to “get over Mom’s death” with most of our surviving family in Colombia, so we have not celebrated any occasion together since Mother’s Day of 2015.
After I moved here, I used to get occasional updates about Vicky from her paternal first cousin Juan Manuel Pereira, but he died in October of 2020. The last time he wrote to me via email, he told me that Vicky was recuperating from multiple hip replacement surgeries she had had shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. early last year.
Why multiple hip replacements? Well, not long after she was released from the hospital after the first operation, Vicky fell on her way to the bathroom and broke her hip again. So she had to undergo the same procedure again and her cousin Mauricio – Juan Manuel’s younger brother – was tasked to take care of her until she recovered.
Of course, this information is 20 months old, and since I do not talk to Juan Manuel’s widow Barbara or his two brothers (Andres is the other one, and he was the one who helped Vicky steal my grandmother’s china set from my house), I don’t have any updates regarding her health (physical or mental). All I know is that according to public info available on the Internet, she’s still alive at the age of 71.
As I said before, I don’t miss Vicky. I don’t want to reconcile with Vicky. She is a poster child – so to speak – for narcissists and toxic family members.
Nevertheless, because she was a huge part of my life for my first 52 years on this planet – and the catalyst for my having to live here in the first place – I do think of her during the holiday season. Maybe I’m more sentimental, or maybe I have some empathy. I don’t know, really.
I can’t help but remember that my mom used to tell Vicky – usually after one of their frequent altercations – to change her ways and treat other people with a modicum of respect and dignity.
“Look, Vicky,” Mom would say. “You’re not a small child anymore. You can’t treat people like crap when you don’t get your way or lose your temper, which you do all too frequently. People have limits to how much abuse they can take, and unless you change your behavior, you are going to end up all alone when you grow old. So be nice to everyone, especially those closest to you.”
Apparently, Vicky ignored Mom’s advice, and now look where she is now. Yes, she has her own place, and I don’t. But with the exception of her two paternal cousins and a few friends, who will celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s with Vicky?
The world (or at least her half-brother) wonders.
Well, I don’t have a lot to report about my life today, so I’ll sign off now. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in my corner of west-central Florida on Sunday, November 21, 2021. It is a gray, somewhat cool late autumn day. Currently, the temperature is 79˚F (26˚F) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 72% and the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 12 MPH (24 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 79˚F (26˚C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 81˚F (27˚C). Tonight, scattered rain showers will continue. The low will be 65˚F (18˚C).
Last night the Caregiver, her boyfriend, and I tried to watch Die Another Day – the 20th film in the long-lived and still ongoing James Bond series – together. As usual, watching a long film with my two contemporaries is frustrating; Alfred is addicted to nicotine, so he gets nervous if he can’t smoke a cigarette every so often. And because – thankfully – there is a no-smoking-inside-the-house rule, folks that want to puff on coffin nails must do it outside. Alfred can’t hold out without a cigarette for, say, two houurs and 13 minutes, so we either must pause the movie so he can smoke out on the front porch, or he’ll say, “You guys go ahead and watch the movie; I’m going out for a smoke.”
So even though we started watching Die Another Day – Pierce Brosnan’s fourth and final outing as Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 – at a reasonable hour, we finished the movie around 8 PM. I don’t think Alfred even finished watching it; he has a plethora of health issues, so he goes to bed early every night. I’m not a huge fan of Bond 20 ; I don’t hate it, but it’s not as good as, say, From Russia with Love or any of the Daniel Craig Bonds – the last of which, No Time to Die, is on my pre-order queue on Amazon.
Aside from that, I don’t have much to report. I have to take a shower, wash my hair, and get into fresh clothes, but I don’t have anything else on my agenda. It is, after all, Sunday, traditionally a day of rest and relaxation. I’ll read for a while; I have gotten into a bad habit of buying books and then putting them on a To Be Read (TBR) pile in my room. I used to read more when I lived in Miami, but ever since I moved here in April of 2016, I don’t “devour” books as often as I did in days of yore. I “nibble” or “gnaw” them instead.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t finish books. I do. But where it used to take me a week or so to finish a Stephen King or Tom Clancy novel, it now takes me about a month to read an equivalent-sized novel or non-fiction book. Even Star Wars novels, which aren’t exactly complex or deep literary works, take me longer to get through these days. I find it easier to watch movies or spend time online than to read.
Ugh. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.
Anyway, I better go take that shower, so adios, amigos. Stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in west-central Florida on Saturday, November 20, 2021. It’s a cool late fall day. Currently, the temperature is 76˚F (25˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 80% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 18 MPH (30 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 75˚F (24˚C). Today’s forecast calls for light rain throughout the day. The high will be 80˚F (26˚C). Tonight, we can expect cloudy skies and a low of 67˚F (20˚C).
Last night I watched – for the first time, in its entirety – director Milos Forman’s Ragtime, a 1981 adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s eponymous 1975 novel about the lives of a New Rochelle, NY family in early 20th Century America amid the growing tensions between white America, immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe, and blacks.
As written by Michael Weller and an uncredited Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Perfect Storm), Ragtime doesn’t attempt to bring Doctorow’s entire novel to the screen. The book covers a decade’s worth of events, while the film concentrates on the story arc of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Howard Rollins, Jr.), a black piano player whose talent is matched only by his desire for justice in an unjust America at the turn of the 20th Century.
Per Ragtime’s packaging blurb:
Layering fascinating characters with the riotous events of early 1900s America, the best-seller by E.L. Doctorow became a cinematic epic under the direction of two-time Oscar winning director Miloš Forman. From the emerging New York suburb of New Rochelle to the flashy spectacle of Atlantic City, a family faces racial tensions, scandals and violence that will test everything they believe in. Newly remastered from a 4K film transfer for its 40th Anniversary, RAGTIME features an unforgettable music score by Randy Newman, and an incredible all-star cast that includes James Cagney in his first (and final) role in nearly two decades, Donald O’Connor, Mandy Patinkin, Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Elizabeth McGovern, Moses Gunn, Pat O’Brien, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, John Ratzenberger, Michael Jeter, Norman Mailer, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Now, I bought the made-on-demand (MOD) DVD version of Ragtime earlier this year and watched roughly two-thirds of the movie – at 2 hours and 35 minutes, it’s one of the longer films in my collection – so I already had some idea how at least one of the story arcs would end. But since I knew the Blu-ray would be released on November 16, I decided to wait till I got it to watch Ragtime from start to finish.
I’m not going to do a review of Ragtime today; it’s the weekend, and as much as I love to write reviews, they require a lot of time and effort on my part, and I don’t feel like being cooped up in my room all day. Suffice it to say, though, Ragtime should have won at least one of the eight Academy Awards it was nominated for (Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Score).
After I watched Ragtime and everyone had gone to bed, I watched the brief preview for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series and a few episodes of Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+. I should have just watched a single episode of The Bad Batch; I was already drowsy when I decided to watch Disney+ and nodded off a few times whilst I watched the first of the three episodes I remember I tried to plow through.
As a result, I remember most of the Obi-Wan Kenobi show’s stuff but pitifully far less about The Bad Batch. Fortunately, I can stream Disney+ on my TV (albeit without the Roku-generated subtitles) and try watching the animated series at my leisure.
Well, Dear Reader, I have been tap-tap-tapping away for a while, and as you can imagine, I am a bit tired from staying up so late. So I’ll close for now and bid you a fond adieu. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hello, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in west-central Florida on Friday, November 19, 2021. It’s a dark and cool autumn day. Currently, the temperature is 74˚F (23˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 87% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 9 MPH (14 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 73˚F (23˚C). Today is going to be a wet day; the forecast calls for light rain and a high of 78˚F (26˚C). Tonight, skies will be mostly cloudy. The low will be 68˚F (20˚C).
I don’t have any personal news today, and it is Friday, so I think I’ll share some of my favorite songs and compositions – from various genres – to get this last weekend before Thanksgiving started.
So, as they say inCajun French, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west-central Florida on Thursday, November 18, 2021. It’s a cool – but not chilly – late fall day. The current temperature is 71˚F (22˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 90% and the wind blowing from the west at 1 MPH (2 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 70˚F (22˚C). The forecast for today calls for rain and a high of 77˚F (25˚C). Tonight, scattered rain showers will affect our area. The low will be 66˚F (19˚C).
Today’s post is titled Thursday Potpourri because I have a few topics I want to write about but not in “long-form” single-topic blog posts. I woke up early again – it’s clearly my lot in life to not get a good night’s sleep, I guess – and even though the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine did not kick my ass, I do feel tired and headachy. I still want to write, though; I just don’t want to chain myself to my desk all fucking day, y’know? At least not when all I feel like doing is sitting down to read a good book or watch a movie.
So, without further ado….let’s push on, shall we?
First order of business today: I found the pair of eyeglasses that I misplaced two days ago. I thought I lost them, perhaps permanently (they could have been mixed into a bag of trash that I took to the garbage can for the Wednesday morning pickup). Happily, that was not the case; they simply slipped inside one of my clothes cubby drawers, and because the cubby, the drawer, and the glasses’ frames are all black, it was hard to find those “missing” specs.
As is almost always the case when I “lose” things in this house, I have a tough time finding things when I’m looking for them. This is because I get upset, nervous, and don’t think rationally when I’m trying to find something, so I look for the missing item in a state of blind panic. It’s only when I chill out and not look for things that the “lost” glasses (or wallet, or house key) show up.
I found my glasses around 9 PM Eastern, so I was able to watch part of 2006’s Casino Royale – Daniel Craig’s first outing as MI6 Agent 007 James Bond. I got sleepy a third of the way through the movie, but this time I was careful and made sure that the cubby drawer was closed when I put my glasses on top of my “dresser.”
Old Gamers Never Die Department: Surviving ‘Junks on Parade’ Unscathed
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I sometimes unwind by playing on a computer submarine simulation called Called Waters. Developed by Australian game creator Killerfish Games, Cold Waters is a successor – of sorts – to MicroProse Software’s 1988 classic Red Storm Rising, a submarine sim based on Tom Clancy’s eponymous novel set in a late 1980s version of World War III.
Cold Waters does feature its own take on Red Storm Rising’s Third Battle of the Atlantic, although it bases its version of WWIII on scenarios in which real events in 1968, 1984, and 2000 pits the U.S. against the Soviets (in ’68 and ’84) or against a Sino-Soviet alliance in an alternate version of history in which Hong Kong is not handed over In 1997 and Beijing forges an alliance with a weakened but still extant USSR to challenge U.S. naval hegemony in the Western Pacific.
Cold Waters features three campaigns and 17 Single Battles set in these alternate historical periods in which the Cold War turns hot. I’ve played two of the campaigns and most of the single battles, including a tough one called Junks on Parade.
Set in 2000 – but not part of the U.S. vs. China campaign – Junks on Parade gives players the best sub in the U.S. inventory at the time: USS Seawolf (SSN-21). Larger and more heavily armed than the better known Los Angeles (SSN-688) class, Seawolf was designed in the late Cold War era as a replacement for the 688s, but when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. Navy decided to only purchase three of these expensive boats, which also included the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) and USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23).
In Cold Waters, players only get the Seawolf, and in Junks on Parade it is assigned to destroy a Chinese amphibious force that is en route to Taiwan. It is escorted by a mix of Chinese and Russian-built surface ships and supported by three anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and two ASW fixed-wing patrol planes.
Junk on Parade is one of my favorite missions, but it’s difficult. First, the waters in the stretch of the Taiwan Strait where the scenario is set are shallow, which puts the mighty Seawolf at a tactical disadvantage. Submarines are at their best in deep waters; they need a lot of room in order to evade the avalanche of torpedoes the Chinese will launch from the warships and the various aircraft arrayed against them. The shallower the water, the less maneuvering space they have. So, even if you have the best boat in the fleet, your technical advantages are reduced by the natural environment of the battlespace in the Taiwan Strait.
I usually win in Junks on Parade – I have lost once or twice since I started playing Cold Waters in July of 2020 – but not without my Seawolf incurring some damage. Usually, I get hit by air-dropped torpedoes from Harbin Z-9 ASW helicopters that see the smoke trail of a UGM-84 Harpoon missile and note the launch point. Wire-guided torpedoes being stealthier, Mk-48 attacks don’t normally provoke aerial retaliation, but missile launches are highly visible. And since sometimes the enemy ships are just beyond torpedo range, I have to use Harpoons, otherwise, the primary targets escape.
Before this week, I had only completed Junks on Parade without my boat getting as much as a scratch on her hull once. I don’t keep records of how many times I play a mission, and unlike MicroProse’s Red Storm Rising or Silent Service II, Cold Waters does not have an honor roll or a Hall of Fame feature that keeps logs of your battles, so I don’t know how many times I’ve played Junks on Parade. But surviving undamaged? That’s memorable. And I accomplished that on Monday night.
How? Mostly by how the game generated the engagement. Junks on Parade is a Killerfish Games-created mission, so I can’t fiddle with the number of ships, their disposition, or cruising speeds. The only variables I control are my initial weapons setup and how close I am to the enemy task force when the battle begins. Everything else is generated by Cold Waters itself.
I don’t want to bore you with a detailed account of the battle; suffice it to say that Cold Waters generated a rare situation where my boat was in a perfect position for an all-torpedo attack on both the surface escorts and the Chinese landing force. Instead of starting at a position slightly ahead or behind the Chinese amphib group, Seawolf was almost in the middle of it. So I did quick target motion analyses (TMAs), identified my targets, and fired torpedoes (and only torpedoes) at the Chinese ships.
The enemy tried to shoot back, of course, but since they could only detect the sounds of the active sonars on my Mk-48 ADCAP torpedoes, the Chinese ASW forces could only launch down the bearings of those. And because you can steer wire-guided torpedoes in one direction while directing your boat in another direction, the enemy can only guess where your boat is unless you slip up and make too much underwater noise by going too fast or accidentally broaching your sub to the surface.
And because this time I was close enough to use torpedoes only, I did not launch any spectacularly visible Harpoons, thus denying the Chinese helicopters or fixed-wing planes a nice juicy target for their air-dropped torps.
I don’t have much in the way of other news; I did receive my Paramount Presents Blu-ray of Milos Forman’s 1981 film Ragtime on Tuesday, but because I didn’t find my glasses until late last night, I could not even think about watching it. If I can alleviate the nagging headache – a symptom of my “Fauci Ouchy”- I might try watching some of it later.
Until next time, Dear Reader, I will say sayonara. I’m a bit tired and have no wish to be at my desk all day, so I’ll wrap this up so I can post this on WordPress. So, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s mid-morning here in west-central Florida on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. It is a cool late fall day – by Florida standards, at least – and we are in a bit of a warming trend. Currently, the temperature is 63˚F (18˚C), but with humidity at 95% and the wind blowing from the northeast at 2 MPH (3 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 60˚F (17˚C). The forecast for today calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 82˚F (28˚C). Tonight, skies will be mostly cloudy and the low will be 57˚F (14˚C).
In yesterday’s brief post I mentioned that I was finally going to get my COVID-19 vaccine, after months of discussion and even arguments with the Caregiver on the topic. Well, I’m happy to report that I did get my “Fauci Ouchy” yesterday afternoon, although it was not without some incident.
It also wasn’t just a matter of going to one of the two nearby supermarkets (Winn Dixie and Publix) to get me vaccinated then back home. Nope. The Caregiver – wisely, I think – made use of her half-day off from work to take both her new boyfriend and me to get a haircut (and in my case, a beard trim), then do some food shopping for Thanksgiving.
(Aside: Damn. I was caught a bit off-guard by how close we are to Thanksgiving!)
We left the house at 2 PM Eastern and went to a nearby unisex hairstyle place. I wore my mask as it was my first venture outside the house in a long time. Alfred and I got our haircuts as the Caregiver waited, then we went off to Winn Dixie to see if their pharmacy was dispensing the vaccine.
Alas, due to the low volume of walk-ins yesterday, the employee, Doreen, said that they were not going to give me a shot because that meant opening a new box to get one dose and throwing the rest away. Doreen apologized profusely, but she also was adamant that the pharmacy wasn’t going to waste an entire box of COVID-19 vaccine just to dole out one dose.
After we bought a few items at Winn-Dixie it was off to Publix, which is a few minutes away (as the car drives). There we had far better luck; there were a few other folks in the vaccine line in front of the pharmacy and the Publix folks were still dispensing doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Long story short; I got my Fauci Ouchy around 5 PM yesterday; I must go back in 27 days to get my second dose.
Am I feeling any side effects from the vaccine?
First, let’s look at what the Centers for Disease Control have to say about the NAID vaccine by Moderna’s side effects:
Possible side effects
In the arm where you got the shot:
Throughout the rest of your body:
These side effects happen within a day or two of getting the vaccine. They are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days..
Okay. So far today – and the day is young – I can report that I have a bit of soreness in my left arm, and I woke up a bit more tired than usual. I also have a bit of a headache, but I frequently get headaches from sitting here at my desk and staring at a computer screen all day anyway. No nausea or chills or fever just yet, but as I said, the day is still young.
I also had to block one of my conservative friends from South Miami High for making religious and political comments about my getting the vaccine. He was really annoying, for one thing, plus he was making false equivalencies between the choice of getting a vaccine and a woman’s right to get an abortion.
This guy, Douglas Lattman, got the vaccine himself, but he said it that it was a personal choice for himself and not for any other consideration, such as to protect other people from COVID-19.
In a comment that I deleted from my Facebook, Douglas made a sarcastic comparison to liberals’ stance on abortion. I obviously can’t quote it word-for-word (and I deleted it as soon as I saw it anyway), but his core point was that if I supported women and their “my body, my choice” slogan, was I not being hypocritical by my criticism of conservatives’ opposition to vaccine mandates?
I didn’t waste time in responding to that long (it was several paragraphs in length) comment/question. It was too full of fundamentalist Christian talking points, for one thing, plus I don’t think I could have kept the conversation civil. All I know is that I hate false equivalencies, especially when you consider that while both issues (vaccination and abortion) involve choice, only one is a public health issue, while the other is a deeply personal and thereforeprivateissue.
So, sadly, I now have one less Facebook friend thanks to the right’s insistence on making COVID-19 a political issue rather than keeping it a purely public health one.
As for the second topic I mentioned yesterday in my blog (the misplacement of my glasses), I don’t have any good news. I have not found them yet.
In fact, there’s a good possibility that they might have gotten mixed into the trash I was taking out of my room and gotten thrown into the garbage bin that was picked up by the trash collectors today. So, unless I am extremely lucky and ended up in one of my IKEA cubby drawers, I am Sierra Oscar Lima on the eyeglasses front.
I’m a bit tired and my left arm is sore at the injection point, so I’m just not going to look for the glasses today. I’m too stressed and not clearheaded to conduct a proper search, and because most of the furniture and the eyeglasses’ frames are black, looking for them in an agitated state of mind would just create more problems. I am not exactly guided by calm and logic when I lose things, and I tend to find missing things when I’m not looking for them.
I think I’ll take it easy today – my mind is too unsettled by the disappearance of my glasses and the unpleasant comment from my now former friend, and I am unusually tired early in the day. So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.