Sunday, January 15, 2017

Operation Peter Pan

I lived in South Florida in the 1960s.  I was married with two toddlers and attending Broward College.  It was a scary time.  Why?  Because Fidel Castro was making life difficult for all of us.

 In 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion took place. This was an invasion of Cubans from the US,  Prior to this there was  massive anti-Castro civil disobedience throughout Cuba.  Castro locked up 250,000 of the protesters so they could not help with the invasion.  And then President Kennedy reneged on his promises of help with the invasion.  So, it turned out to be a complete dud!

It seemed things couldn't get much worse - but they did, when, in 1962, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This was a dust up between the United States, Cuba and the Soviet Union.  As I said, a very scary time in South Florida.  Every day there were planes flying in formation across the skies.  Every day, more instructors at the college quit and moved north, believing we were about to be invaded or blown off the map.

So I thought, until a few months ago, that I knew quite a bit about Cuba in the early 60s because I was living close by.  But I never heard of "Operation Peter Pan."

Saying Goodbye.
That is, until my friend and neighbor told me, just a few months ago,  that she was a "Peter Pan" kid.  So was her husband.  What was Operation Peter Pan?  It was the biggest exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1960 Castro launched his slogan "Cuba si, Yankee no!" and ordered communist indoctrination in Cuban schools.  He ordered only Marxist textbooks be used.  Many parents thought that it was time to get their children out of Cuba.  The parents could not leave but they wanted their children to be saved.  So a complicated program, helped by the Catholic Church and the American Embassy, was born and thousands of unaccompanied children were sent to the United States.

Our neighbors, Pilar and Iggy were two of those kids.  They were sent, separately, to Chicago where they each had family members.  (Some children, who did not have family in the states were sent directly to orphanages.)  Pilar and Iggy met each other in Chicago and have spent their entire lives here in the states.  Iggy's father was part of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and was sent to prison in Cuba.

Pilar and Iggy, along with the vast majority of Peter Pan kids, became professional people and raised wonderful families.  So what is the answer to the question "How could parents send their kids away, unescorted, to another country?" Most of the time the answer is "To give them a better life."


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Changing Our Minds

Michael Lewis's latest book "The Undoing Project - A Friendship That Changed Our Minds" is currently on several national best selling lists.  Lewis's wildly popular book (and movie,) "Moneyball" was about making choices in a systematic, mathematical way.  In "Moneyball" it was about using data to choose baseball players rather than the traditional scouting method.

A really hard sell.  I think it's because we are just way more comfortable with our old ways of thinking and feeling.  It's hard work and scary to gather data and be objective.

"The Undoing Project" is, essentially about a friendship and collaboration of two psychologists that produced some new ideas about decision making.  I want to share three of the many concepts in this book because I think they are spot on!

Hindsight - to overestimate the probability that things will turn out the way they have.  "We've always done it this way."

Endowment - We tend to overvalue what we already possess only because we possess it.  For example, when we start to downsize we think we're gonna make a fortune on the coin set, the paintings, the antique desk, etc., before we accept the hard, sad truth.

Availability - to overestimate the frequency of items we happen to be able to summon to mind easily.  

I'm getting ready to lead a series of classes with other oldies (like me) and I know that these three concepts really impact this exciting time of life as we continue to gear up for what lies ahead.  The bottom line is we need to gather some hard data and be willing to change our minds before taking the next step.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

La La Land

I have yet to meet anyone who's watched it to come out in a bad mood. - Jim Slotek, Toronto Sun

As you know, I am not a spontaneous person, so it surprised Dave yesterday to hear me say, "Why don't we stop on the way home and see a movie?"  We haven't seen one in a while.  There are only two out now that interest us, Manchester by the Sea and La La Land.  By the way, two very different movies.

We saw La La Land.  Ten minutes in, after a long opening song and dance number on the LA freeway,  I thought "Oh, Oh, I made a mistake."  But ten minutes after that I was hooked.  So was Dave.

It's an artistic, new take on musical film making.  I like dialogue and character development.  La La Land has them.  It's fanciful but realistic and somewhat gritty.  It stars the amazingly gifted Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.  But are they gifted in voice and dance?  I don't think so.  This makes the film better.

It's almost impossible to pin down the time period.  The cars are old, except when they're new.  There are no computers except when there is one.  There are cell phones but no texting.

It's La La Land.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More "Why I Love Florida" Stories

From time to time I try to share with you stories of Central Floridians making questionable decisions.  Here a a few from the last weeks of 2016.   Let's see if we can learn any lessons.

- A man named Pork Chop tried to bury his boss by uploading a pile of dirt with his fork lift and dumping it on the boss.

Lesson Learned:  Don't hire a man named Pork Chop.

- A naked man broke into a home and bit a women before being subdued.  He died later in the hospital.

Lesson Learned:  Just say No to drugs.

- A woman, on a motorized scooter, stole $3,500 worth of "Simpsons" memorabilia from Universal Studios, including a Homer Simpson hoodie.

Lesson Learned:  Don't ever steal from Universal or Disney.  You're always on camera.

- A man with no pants hijacked a luggage vehicle at Orlando International Airport.  He told the driver he was late for his flight.

Lesson Learned:  Get up earlier.

- My favorite and most current story comes from Tampa.  An angry pit bull named Scarface sent three people to the hospital after a woman tried to dress him in a sweater.

Lesson Learned:  Don't put lipstick on a pig and don't put a sweater on a pit bull named Scarface.  They don't like it.


Sunday, January 1, 2017


Leonard Cohen died last month.  He was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, musician, novelist and painter.  He's one of those people we could describe as deeply spiritual but maybe not religious.  He eventually became a Buddhist monk, during five years of seclusion.

One of his most famous songs was - and is - Hallelujah.  It's been said that he wrote 80 verses.  I believe it.

So what would we discuss in Forum on this, January 1, 2017,  after the year, 2016, that most are describing in extremely negative verbiage, due to personal, local, national and international tragedies?

Hallelujah, of course.

We talked about four of the 80 verses.  A couple of them are very biblical.  But, if you had a terrible 2016, I'll leave you with the last verse we discussed.

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen 1934-2016


Thursday, December 29, 2016

South of Broad

South of Broad
Dave and  I just spent one of the best, for me, Christmas holidays ever in Atlanta.  It was over-the-top great family time.  But one sad/happy thing:  Dave wasn't able to get to his daughter's house in Chicago (first time ever!) But that meant we spent Christmas together (first time ever!)

Then we spent a couple of days in one of the most popular and exquisitely beautiful cities in the South, Charleston, South Carolina.

Mother Emanuel
Most folks who know anything about Charleston know the term "South of Broad."  It refers to a exclusive, old area of the city, full of stunning architecture.  It was made popular by one of my favorite writers, Pat Conroy in his book "South of Broad."  In the book Conroy dealt with the underbelly of this area, namely racism and classism.

The last time we had a tour in Charleston I asked the guide why he never mentioned Pat Conroy.  He said, "We don't like him here."

Charleston is no different from other cities with a long history of wealth and power.  Winter Park, Florida which you know how much I love, has a long history of discrimination.

Dave spent his entire adult life before me in Edina, Minnesota. Most of the folks outside Edina call the folks in Edina "Cake Eaters."

On Tuesday we saw Mother Emanuel AME Church, where, in 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people in a 'Bible Study.  This was not south of Broad.  We had lunch at Magnolia's, a restaurant recommended by Dave's daughter.  It was exquisite.  It was south of Broad.

We toured the Citadel - my first time.  So impressive!  Huge and all white.

At the end of our tour around the city, after everyone else had disembarked, I asked our tour guide why the previous guide said, "We don't like Pat Conroy in Charleston."  This guide, who actually went to the Citadel with Pat Conroy, told us some people don't like the way he portrayed the city but what they really disliked was how he portrayed the Citadel in his book, "The Lords of Discipline."

Pat Conroy was one of our great southern writers.  I would encourage you to read his novels, starting with "The Prince of Tides."  They will make you love Charleston, even with its underbelly of discrimination and cruelty.  This exists everywhere and I'm grateful to writers, especially our southern writers, who help us see it.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Famous For Being Famous

Zsa Zsa Gabor, the last of the Budapest born Gabor sisters, died last week at age 99 -on my birthday.  Long before the Kardashians, the Gabors became rich and famous by establishing their brand.   And they did it without social media. They relied on TV and newspapers.

Zsa Zsa, along with her sisters, Eva and Magda, had a whooping twenty (that's 20!) marriages between them with Zsa Zsa coming in first at nine.

Fun Fact:  Zsa Zsa and Magda were both married to George Sanders - but not at the same time. 

Zsa Zsa and Eva each did some acting, Zsa Zsa in the movies and Eva on "Green Acres" where she essentially played herself on a farm, but they were rich and famous for keeping their brand going by being outrageous and flaunting a most extravagant Hollywood lifestyle.  

Zsa Zsa, who was Miss Hungary in 1936,  married her ninth husband in the '80s and they stayed married until her death last week.  Her husband, Frederic Prinz van Anholt became a "royal" by paying a French princess to adopt him when he was 36 years old.  He and Zsa Zsa subsequently adopted at least ten grown men who paid them millions of dollars to receive "royal" status.

As an older woman Zsa Zsa spent three nights in jail after slapping a traffic cop.  She made great use of the publicity.  She was a master at publicizing her shenanigans.

Zsa Zsa's most famous quote:  I am a marvelous housekeeper.  Every time I leave a man I keep his house.

There's nothing new about people exploiting us with our full consent