Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Castro...how many years is this?

Fighting. Even at 6 and 7 years old my world was filled with fighting, watching it, hearing about it discussing it and doing it and usually losing. I remember the first days Castro came to power. We watched CBS news back then. It was Walter Cronkite usually I think...not sure. But to see Castro riding through the streets and then see something we seldom saw unless it was a late night World War II or Korean era film that featured James Edwards or Sidney Porter (of course it is Portier, I was still seven then, only just learning the nuances of the language after doing the migration thing from Mississippi to the projects just 'cross the tracks from Chinatown).

Castro was accompanied by black soldiers. Some of us kids would discuss the news among ourselves. Our teachers at Haines school always insisted we read the newspapers and discuss it.

I had learned to read from my mom when I was 5 and my sister Gwen was 4. She taught us from the newspaper. I sold the papers - the Sun-Times, sometimes the Defender, or maybe even Jet magazine until I got robbed one too many times. Someone may have even been stabbed oevr some paper money, I am not sure. Something ended my hustle.

My father was still in the army, he was stationed in Chicago After Korea with the 5th Army. He was a radar man in a Nike Missle installation on 31st Street beach it was called "C-40". This was some serious Cold War stuff. When it was very hot like this, my father would come home and get us out of bed at about 1:00 am puit us to sleep on the beach and go back in the silo. He would wake us at 5:00 am when the sun would just be peeking over the horizon of lake Michigan. I do not rememebr any of this. My mom told me this one a few months ago. During the Missle crisis my dad was very busy we did not get to see him much.

1962 and the missle crisis came. We had been discussing the Crisis in School. My boy Luther was always asking about how come we never see "Castro's black dudes" on the news anymore. They looked cool, these bearded revolutionaries out from the mountains of Oriente. Castro was no longer a freedom fighter, he was now a "gawdless commonist," what that meant to us was nothing. We dug Castro and dug Kennedy too. One of our teachers told us about The AfroCuban soldiers who fought the Spanish American War in Cuba and in the Phillipines. What has happened to our educational standards??

I remember after school on day walking down 23rd street east. We were coming home from school at 3:15. A brigade of Ants all in a row headed back to the Projects. Down 24th Street to Wentworth to the Chinese Christian Union Church where we often saw mid-day brass bands playing funerals. We turned right onto 23rd Street and walked a block to the Railroad viaduct and was back in the Harold J. Ickes Homes.

It was during this walk someone suggested that Castro and Kennedy duke it out. Like Dick the Bruiser and BoBo Brazil and Verne Gagne. Mix it up like Sugar Ray and Floyd Patterson. Like in them old movies where two kings fight for the spoils and spare the land and what not.

That was when the argument started. Luther, forever the naysayer said Castro would kick Kennedy's ass. We was like no way, Kennedy was on that boat, PT-101 and got shipwrecked and survived and could talk Castro if he could do that. Luther was laughing. Castro justcame out the mountains last year, he don't look fat. Everytime he come on talking shit in that uniform he look tough, Kennedy look soft. We laugh about it and almost starting fighting ourselves as we continued to argue. Our parents were placing a lot of hope in Kennedy.

There was hope fo the Cuban people when Castro rode into Havana. Walter Cronkite said so. When he became a communist, i do not not know. But all the really cool people I was learning about were called communist, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, anybody going downsouth for freedom rides to help people get the right to vote. even at my young age it was apparent that all communist was not communist but just being called out their names.

Yeah I will admit it we admired Castro back then, and that bad ass cool motherfucker called Che. Third and fourth graders dicussing foreign policy you ask? Yeah, weren't those truly the good old days. We had a few dynamite teachers back then: Melvin Gaynor, Dorothy Luckett, Carl Smith, Mr. Moy, John B Mack III, Ms Ferguson otehr whose names I do not remember.

We loved that school there in the center of Chinatown. But fighting consumed our days, with Air Raid drills, duck and cover crap films. Luther would be saying "duck and cover, my ass." Luther always knew stuff, if only his mom would wash his clothes a bit more often we could stand to be around him longer. Luther was a loner he had issues at home. We lived in the projects he lived across the street in an old tenement. It was quite a contrast to the projects. I had never seen anything like it. Dark, dank and eroding. And I had just come from Asswipe, Mississippi as some of the kids like to say.

Fighting consumed our nights, with the missle crisis, the beginning of troops, our fathers, older brothers, cousins, being send to Vietnam.

My favorite teacher, Ms Luckett was the one who broke the news to us about the seriousness of the crisis. We learned that Chicago would be one of the cities targeted. Luther said we was gona get hit at Madison and state because that was zero for hitting us just right. Like I said, Luther knew stuff, maybe he had been talking to my dad or something.

Around this time I think I got my ass kicked again afetr being spared for about 5 months or so. I discovered Bruce Tegner in the library and had seen a Mr. Moto Film and a film with James Cagney throwning some Japanese dude all over the room. And wait a minute, one armed Spencer Tracy had a Bad Day at Black Rock and let some cowboys know it.

I neeeded some of what they had.

And that is what all this has to do with Fidel Castro stepping down today. If anyone is offended that I speak of him in anything but glowing terms all I have to say is, "How's Elian doing?"

Dante did claim to have been with Raul Castro and Che in the mountains in Cuba as some kind of mercenary. Who knows? He was probably lying. But if I ever got a chance to ask Raul about it I probably would. Just so I was sure. I have heard that at one point Castro got some assistance from the US to close the books on Batista. This as before communism took possession of Fidel's immortal soul of course. In 1958 the US suspended military assistance to Batista's regime, so by 1959 I am sure they would be currying favor with the up and coming Castro with a lil' help on the side the way the foreign policy boys do when they want someboy's ass out.

One more thing. If the US really wanted to end Castro's reign they would have airlifted 200,000 color TV sets to Cuba, dropped them by parachute and bombarded them with 40 years of pro-democracy consumerism, Lucy and Desi re-runs, and the Frito Bandito. Blowing shit up is not always the answer, great Military might is no guarantee of political victory. Lao-Tzu definitely is not in the reading list of out present day military commanders. I take that back, maybe Bush never heard of him.

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