The Collector

This is a series I’m starting about growing up in Cuba.


Now that I have kids, I understand how heartbreaking it can be to not be able to give them something they really want. Does my daughter really need another stuffed animal? No, she has over 20 stuffed animals she sleeps with in her bed, but sometimes it breaks my heart to say no.

Maybe it has something to do with where I came from. By any standards, me and my wife are poor. I make just enough to pay rent, while my wife’s photography business fluctuates between really awesome, to really poor months. That’s the nature of the business. (By the way, if anyone is hiring a graphic designer, video editor, copy editor, or public relations person, let me know. Just some of the many creative hats I can wear.)

There are some tough months, lots of them. Months where we just make it by God’s grace. And not for lack of trying. Now that I have my degree, I have applied to at least 30 jobs in the past three weeks. I’ve gotten about three or four rejections, but no interview calls from the rest.

And yet, despite our current situation, I’ve come from worse. From much worse.

The Collector

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but if I had to guess, I was around eight years old when I began collecting discarded candy wrappers.

I wasn’t the only one. This was a thing, a huge thing in my school and probably with most kids in Havana. Instead of baseball cards (never even saw one of those in Cuba), we collected and traded candy wrappers we found on the street.

That’s the real cruelty in all of this. We didn’t even get to enjoy the candy. We couldn’t afford to buy Skittles or anything else, so like all other kids in my school, I would keep my eyes peel to the street for the wrappers.

I would pick them up and smell them because the ones with the freshest smell were the most “valuable” ones. You could trade a “fresh” one for another one with cool colors and whatnot. I realize now how unsanitary and insane that was, but that’s what we had. I had hundreds of candy wrappers and so did my friends. I would find the best ones in places where a lot of tourists would visit. So yes, littering tourists helped Cuban kids grow their peculiar collection.

I haven’t asked my mom, but I’m sure that it couldn’t have been easy to watch your kid collect another person’s trash (literally) and see that as a valuable thing. However, as a kid, it didn’t seem that weird. But if my kids were the ones doing that, not only would I be heartbroken, but I would be so angry at the government that has kept Cubans as second class citizens in their own country for almost 60 years.

Ignorant people say, “oh, let’s visit Cuba now before American capitalism destroys it.” Let me tell you something, the imported Russian communism hasn’t been any good to us.

I’m still apprehensive about all of these changes because it’s not a sure thing that democracy will follow all of this American influx of cash. The one thing that is for sure is that the same cowards that have ruled Cuba for 56 yeas will be getting a lot of money and that can’t be good.

If President Obama really wants to help and cares about Cubans (and not about his legacy), then only make these changes by demanding that the Castro’s hold free and open elections. Wasn’t he the president who ran on change after all?

 

When Did I Get Old?

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I was in Miami recently visiting my family. As usual, I hung out most of my time with my 14-year-old nephew. He never leaves my side, seriously.

What I learned from hanging out with my nephew Joel and my brother Jorge (he’s 20) is how old I’ve become. I’m only 31, but when I hear them talk, they use brand new colloquialisms (at least brand new to me) that put me in the awkward position of asking “what that means,” or typically, to keep my mouth shut and keep listening to see if I can figure it out.

Recently, when a viral video made its way online of a kid asking Michael Jordan “what are those?” people shared it, as if that was a big deal. I was more clueless than Jordan. I had no idea that “what are those?” started as a viral video, which then became a meme and is now a “thing” kids now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely clueless. I’m on Instagram, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and I’ve used, Vine, kik and WhatsApp, but still, it seems that I’m always playing catch up.

I love technology. I grew up when the Internet was a shiny new thing and computers were slow and clunky. However, nowadays technology and the next “big thing” move at nearly the speed of light. You’re only “cool” if you happen to be on a specific App or if you play a certain game.

How do kids keep up with all this stuff?

One night in Miami, my brother was up until 4 a.m. playing WoW (World of Warcraft) while my nephew scrolled through Vine and literally laughed out lout every six seconds. What was I doing? I went t sleep around 1 a.m., of course.

One Star Reviews of Famous Books

If you don’t know, my dream is to become a full-time author, which means my dream is to become a best-selling author. You can check out my novel The Mysterious Manuscript at its discounted Kindle price of $1.99.

Anyway, as an author, who works very hard on his novels, I dislike receiving one or two-star reviews. I know that not everyone is going to like my book and that’s fine, but still, no one likes it when someone calls their baby ugly.

So what do I do to feel better? I look at books that are considered classics almost universally and read the one-star reviews. If people hate “The Great Gatsby” then I’m in good company.

So, here are some one-star reviews of some of the most iconic books of all-time. Oh, I will keep the selected reviews short, for your reading pleasure.


-To Kill a Mockingbird

The Most Boring Book Ever! Review

THIS BOOK IS BORING! There’s no other word to describe it.I just wasen’t interested in this book. And they call this a “timeless classic”! Bah,humbug! If I had a cookie for every time I heard that, I’d be a very fat kid!


-1984

A redundant book of philosophy and vericose vains

While embarking on this “classic,” don’t expect to find yourself absorbed in a magnificant tale. 1984 is a redundant novel with unnecessary tangents and pages of contradicting philosophy. …and must we really keep reading in full detail the horror and disgust of Winston’s vericose veins?!

 


-The Fellowship of the Ring (LOTR)

One man’s bread…

…is another man’s poison. Before I get flamed by rabid Tolkien fanatics, let me state that I’ve attempted to enjoy this book several times over the last 7 years or so. Each time, I’ve managed to get perhaps 1/3 of the way through before I finally give up. I mean, I enjoyed “The Hobbit”, and, as devoted fantasy readers, it’s our duty to worship L.O.T.R., right? Sorry, but this is one book of flowery prose that zaps me (and many readers, I’m betting) right into slumberland. The characters and situations are well-crafted, but his style of writing about them generates a 0 on the interest meter.


-The Catcher in the Rye

I am truly the odd one out here. I hated it.

Why on Earth do so many people love this book?! Goodness gracious it was almost painful to read. I guess I would have enjoyed it much more if I were a teenager more precisely a teenage boy. The ramblings of Holden just didn’t do a thing for me…other than annoy the crap out of me that is. It was just all over the place sometimes it was even hard to keep up. I guess I’m glad I read it since it’s a classic and all but maybe I should have read it a long long time ago!


-The Great Gatsby

Not what I would call a classic

Beautifully written, with careful, flowing language that, despite that, couldn’t make me like it. Stupid, shallow characters that drove me insane (seriously, why was that woman sobbing over shirts? Or was it ‘symbolic’?), and a plot that annoyed me. Seriously, if I wanted to read about a bunch of drunken, entitled rich prigs and their secret, snooty hidden world, I’d pick up one of the local gossip rags.


-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Rubbish

Started reading it to my granddaughter,she kept losing interest.It rambels,rubbish.


-The Sun Also Rises

An Insult to all who admire good writing.

Thank the maker I checked this book out at the library. What a total waste of money it would have been if I had bought it. Pure…utter….nonsense. But, we must understand that Hemingway was 27 years old, immature, most likely drunk, and this novel was written in his very first year as a novel-writer.

This novel has thee worst dialog ever to grace a page. It is unnatural in every sense. It is contrived It is repetitive. It is just…plain….awful. It’s as if Hemingway’s “mission statement” in writing this novel was to mention drinking wine, eating at a restaurant, being chauffeured about the town, and staying in posh hotels, at least five times…on…every….single….page.

There is no plot. The characters are as substance-less as they could get. Eat, drink, party, talk bad about others. Rinse and repeat. My final issue is that I was prohibited from burning this book (so as not to inflict pain upon future readers.) The library might have had a problem with that.


-On the Road

Utter nonsense

‘On the Road’ was one of those books I’d always heard of, and thought I’d read one day. A few weeks ago I heard Mojo Nixon’s rant about the book on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Dude was sellin’ it! And bought it… so no one to blame but myself (I owe ya one, Mojo…).

So I picked it up and about 1/4 of the way in I thought maybe it’ll get better. I kept reading. I got to a point where I had to finish the book so I would never have to read it again (and criticize it to my lil heart’s content). It took me two weeks to read the whole darn thing, but it felt longer.

This is the book that changed America?!? Really?!? The “adventures” of a mooching scumbag (Dean Moriarty) and his weak-willed friend (Sal Paradise)? I suppose this planted the seeds for the 60s hippies right up to today’s hipsters. Swell…

The writing is atrocious, so bad the editor could have used an editor. I am truly at a loss as to why there are those out there who think it’s a work of genius. BUT, I read it, and I never, ever, EVER have to read it again.


-Ulysses

Go for a root canal instead

After fifty pages of a suicide-inducing introduction attempting to explain to me what this phone book-size mess is supposed to be about, no, I will not be devoting one more minute to ULYSSES by James Joyce. Life is too short for any more alcoholic-fueled aimless ramblings by over-rated authors whom college professors try to tell us are geniuses and we just don’t get it. One thing I do get, is a plot. And there is nary a trace of one within the pages of this root canal of a book. Goodbye.


-A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Please, don’t make me read Joyce!

One of the best things about finishing my formal education is that no one can ever force me to read James Joyce again! I didn’t get it, I’ll never get it, and I don’t want to get it. I had nightmares for weeks after reading the “hell” passage. It ranks at or near the top of my list of “Worst Books I Ever Read” and it’s likely to stay there no matter what I read. Joyce fans tell me that it is essential to read his works with the aid of another book, such as ReJoyce, to explain Joyce’s, and it continues to astonish me that otherwise highly intelligent people think that this proves the quality of the work. Other writers don’t get published, unless by a vanity press, if their work can’t be understood by reasonably intelligent people. Joyce is supposed to be brilliant? I think he was nuts. More power to those who like him, but if you are thinking you should read this because it’s supposed to be a classic, you might want to rethink that. At least check it out of the library instead of spending money on it.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

J.K. Rowling is working on a Harry Potter prequel! Well, sort of. It’s actually a play, not a new novel, but it does take place before the events of the first book.

“The Cursed Child would ‘delve into what happened to Harry’s parents before they were killed by Lord Voldemort, forcing an infant Harry to be raised in miserable circumstances by his mother’s sister, Petunia, her horrid husband Vernon and their spoiled son Dudley.'”

Read more here