BLACK LIKE ME – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall


My father’s parents, my grandparents, were from rural Tennessee. They lived in Weakley County and their town was Martin. They were farmers but after World War II life there was hard and they moved to Chicago. When my grandfather retired from the Appleton Electric factory, they moved back to Tennessee and bought a house at the very edge of town. By that I mean there was a cornfield across the street.

I had been down there when I was little but don’t remember a lot about it. When I was a little older I would go to visit my retired grandparents, perhaps early to mid-1960s. I would walk with my grandfather into town. It was a mile to maybe a mile and a half to get to the start of Main Street. It could not have been more stereotypical small southern town America.

Martin, Tennessee 1965

These walks were more to exercise my aging grandparent than anything else. We rarely stopped anywhere. On one trip as we walked down the street, we saw a couple of black guys coming from the other direction. As they got near us they stepped off the sidewalk to let us pass. I thought this was rather strange. On the next block, it happened again. “Grandpa, why do those guys get off the sidewalk when we come by?”

“Oh,” my grandfather said rather sadly, “it’s just what black folks do.” I was rather naive and I just didn’t get it. I thought something was wrong with us that these people did not want to share the sidewalk with us. It would take a few more years before I got it. I am not sure why, but that is a strong memory that stays with me.

When my grandparents lived in Chicago, I guess I spent as much time with them as anyone. My grandfather read the Bible every day and took the lessons to heart. He saw everyone as the same and never said a bad word about others, so I didn’t consider the idea of different races. He was the most decent man I have known in my life. He was a real Christian and believed in the Golden Rule.  I am sure he would not know what to make of all the fake Christians today.

When I was older, a book was recommended to me entitled, “Black Like Me.” It is the true story of John Howard Griffin. In 1959 he got the help of a dermatologist to temporarily turn his skin brown using drugs and ultraviolet light. When he could pass as a black man in the south, he set out on his journey.

Original publication 1960

He solicited the help of a black shoeshine man he knew in New Orleans, who did not recognize him at first. He needed an introduction in the community and had to confide in someone. The journey is at times sad, at other times harrowing. When you have finished the book you have a better understanding of just how hard life could be for black people in the south prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, you could never really know.  Yes, this 1960 book is dated now, but it had a big impact at the time of release. The author had to move to Mexico for fear of his life.

There is a 1964 movie starring James Whitmore that dramatizes the book. It has been decades since I have seen it so I can not explain how much it sanitizes the story for the viewing public. I am sure they did not capture a lot of what he was saying. The movie can still be found online. I ran across a free version on YouTube.

You may have seen the social experiment where a teacher asks an assembly of white people if they would prefer to be treated like a black person. Without getting even one response, she repeats the question, but there are no takers. Then she explains the facts to them:

I have lived in the same house for 41 years. It is a diverse neighborhood of mostly white, but black and brown and yellow too. I have never been afraid to walk down the street before, but it has been a rough few days. People are on edge. Businesses are closed. The post office and the bank are closed. Stores are boarded up as merchants large and small fear for their businesses.  I worry about going too far from the house that I might get beat up or killed in a neighborhood that has always been home.

It is no secret how I feel this has happened. I have seen The Making of America” and it has not been great. If Donald J Trump, the master of divisiveness, is not the anti-Christ, he is doing a good impersonation. But I digress.

With the boarding up of stores from Lincoln Square to Albany Park to Lake View to downtown Chicago, and with the threats to the gay business to Boystown, it has terrified many folks I know. Since the city has successfully cut off downtown with the police and the National Guard, protests have moved to the neighborhoods. A friend of mine commented on Facebook how frightening it was to live like this. He mentioned how there were sirens through the night and people were killed over the weekend.  Another friend replied:

“Scary isn’t it. That fear is what many black people feel all the time”

See Also: The Making Of America, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, June 2, 2020.

THE MAKING OF AMERICA – RICH PASCHALL

It Isn’t Great, by Rich Paschall

After 100,000 have died, millions have lost their jobs and America’s cities burn, we can hear the right-wingers now. “You can’t blame this on Trump. This is not Trump’s fault.” But here’s the problem. It IS Trump’s fault, just about all of it.

LIAR in Chief

The amount of lies Trump has told the American people is staggering. This is not just a wild assertion as some on the right side of the aisle may claim.  It is a well-documented fact. This is not just put out there by the Washington Post, but also by many fact-checkers around the country. If the Post is too liberal for you, you can find a variety of sources. If he is talking or tweeting, he’s probably lying. Now he wants to stop Twitter from fact-checking him.

Opportunist  in Chief

Despite something known as the Emoluments Clause, Trump has taken the opportunity to further enrich himself and his rich friends. He plays a lot of golf on the taxpayer’s money, then has the secret service and others in the entourage stay at his lodging, also at taxpayers’ expense. This is the way to funnel your money to himself.

Clause 7   The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

He would not know the meaning of this, nor would he care.

Tax Cutter in Chief

OK, this was never meant to help you.  This was all about giving himself and his rich friends a tax break. In other words, the rich got richer.

Hater in Chief

You may think this one is pretty strong. Am I actually calling out someone as a hater? His whole term in office is about hate speech and defending “some very nice people” with confederate or Nazi flags and automatic weapons.

Anarchist in Chief

The statements by someone already in an office that are meant to undermine local, state, or even federal government are outrageous, to say the least. He has used his position of authority, not to work with others, but to bad mouth mayors, governors and US Senators, and Representatives. His provocative speech has indicated to his base of supporters that it is OK to “Liberate” states. It is ok to challenge public officials. That white nationalist protestors include some very nice people. White Racists, including the KKK, favor Trump. In fact, the KKK endorsed him in the last election.

Mis-manager in Chief

He had the opportunity to take the lead in times of crisis. He blew it. He blamed China, he blamed governors, he blamed scientists, he blamed Obama. He blamed everyone for not getting out in front of this crisis but himself. As we write this at the end of May, the virus is on the rise in many states. Trump encourages the opening of states because it would help the economy. The only thing it may help is the death toll.

Leaders of some countries took early and decisive action. Trump dismissed it
“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”  – January 22nd.

The World Health Organization warned of a worldwide pandemic, Trump called it a Democratic hoax: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”  – March 9th

Other countries took action to help their people. Trump and the Republicans blocked a second stimulus payment. They work toward legislation to protect companies from any liability for forcing employees back to work. They threatened to cut off unemployment benefits. Trump refused to cancel student loans.

Nero in Chief

He may not know how to play the fiddle, but he is doing a good job of pretending to be Emperor while the cities burn.  Here is why it is his fault:

Robber in Chief

Yes, there are people who are taking advantage of a bad situation to do bad things. Some are looting stores for their own personal joy or gain. Some are causing destruction to make one side or the other look bad. As I write to you, my emergency alert on my phone is not announcing bad weather, it is announcing a city curfew.  There is violence in the streets.

There are lawbreakers among the protestors and rioters, that’s for sure. And no matter what any of them may steal tonight or in the days to come, Trump has already stolen from them the most important thing necessary to make and keep America great. He has stolen HOPE. He has left many Americans broken and alone while he sits on his toilet, or wherever, sending tweets of hate into cyberspace. Meanwhile:

  • Is there any hope that situations will improve between big-city police departments and communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that economic opportunities will come to the communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that gun violence and people violence will subside in our country?
  • Is there any hope that immigrant families, ripped apart at the border, will be united?
  • Is there any hope that a leader will step forward and unite America with one voice through this pandemic?
  • Is there any hope that that the poor and middle class will find more assistance during extended unemployment, as other countries have done for their citizens, or will stimulus really be a way to hand more money to the rich?

People who take to the streets in protests that turn violent have lost hope that change will come by any other means. They have been driven down and stepped on and had a knee put to their collective throats. They are sick and tired of it. The words from the Orange Menace in Washington signals to the people of the nation that indeed, there is no hope.

On Monday Limbaugh and Hannity and Trump will all rage away. Will anyone offer hope to the masses?

WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE – RICH PASCHALL

The Wake-Up Call, by Rich Paschall

The day had finally arrived. Jon was on his way. George waited for the news that Jon had successfully cleared Customs in Miami and was getting his second flight on to his new home. When there was no word, George went to the airport anyway. He thought Jon did not have phone service in America and could not get on the internet. He was not going to worry, not too much anyway. He had sent Jon the ticket so he knew the flight number.

Leaving home for a new life

George did not know whether to wait at the end of the concourse where passengers would come from the gates, or go down to the baggage claim area in the large airport. Having waited upstairs for a long time, George finally went down to baggage. He paced around nervously as the passengers claimed their luggage and walked away. Finally, the baggage carousel was empty, and there was no Jon.

It was late at night. Few people were milling about the baggage area. George stood in the aisle looking down one way, then the next, Suddenly a familiar person appeared in the distance, rolling a small silver suitcase alongside himself. It was Jon. George hurried toward him and gave him a big hug. “Welcome,” George exclaimed. “Thanks,” Jon said.

Jon was tired. He had started the day very early in South America. It took three flights to finally make it to a large city in another country. He was eager to get out of the airport and on the way to a new life.

George tried to explain the sites as they traveled home by car, but Jon seemed uninterested. George figured he was just tired. When they made it home, George asked if he wanted anything to eat. Jon ate a little. They talked a little. Then it was time for a good night’s sleep.

It seemed so sad that Jon had to leave so many things behind. He only came with a small suitcase and a small backpack. He told George he sold whatever he could to have money for the trip, and gave the rest to friends. He was ready to start anew.

A whole new world

There were two empty drawers in the dresser for Jon. For the large Queen size bed, George told Jon he could have either side he wanted. Jon took the far side, George tried to be quiet and not move so the very tired Jon could sleep well.

During the weekdays George had to work and Jon was home alone. There were plenty of Spanish stations on the satellite television to occupy time, but that was not enough for Jon. He felt like a prisoner waiting for George to come home. At night they shopped for food, some clothes, and a few other things for Jon. That too was not enough to satisfy Jon. This was not really what he wanted.

At the weekend, Jon wanted to go dancing. “Ok,” George said. “We can go.”

“No, I don’t want to go with you. I have met some people from my country online, and one will come to get me. We will go to the Club. I don’t want to be with you.”

George was startled by the declaration. He never thought Jon would say such a thing. George had assumed they would do everything together. George was wrong.

Jon was young and eager to do things and not be stuck at home every day. George tried to make things better for Jon. He introduced him to neighbors who spoke Spanish. He took him to nice stores and restaurants. He helped him to apply for his green card so he could work and have more freedom.

Seeing new things

Some days Jon seemed OK with his situation. He made dinner for George and things were pleasant. Other days did not go so well and Jon complained bitterly about being stuck in the house all day. Patience was not a virtue that Jon enjoyed.

After a few days, Jon had decided to sleep in the spare room on the twin bed. He told Jon that he moved around too much, and it was not good to sleep together since they kept different hours. Each weekend Jon went out with friends from his country. “Give me some money George. Just give me 20 dollars.”

By the end of just one month, Jon wanted to leave. He told George they were never friends. “You are ugly and I don’t like you. I want to go live with some people from my country in Miami where the weather is nicer.” Jon wanted Geroge to buy him a ticket. On the one hand, George saw no reason to spend so much money; on the other hand, he was unhappy and tired of Jon’s complaining.

So George bought the ticket online and immediately drove Jon to the airport. Jon took the suitcase that he brought to America and his backpack, both with some new clothes, and got out of the car at Departures. He said nothing. George drove away with the feeling of relief.

Leaving again for a new home

After a month had gone by, George got a message from Jon via Messenger. He deleted it. Later he got another, then another. George blocked him.

The next day George’s neighbor Axel told him he got a text from Jon. He desperately needs to talk to George but there is no answer. “I have nothing to say,” George told him.

The following day Axel stopped George again. He told George that it was urgent, but George said he was not interested.

“But Jon wants you to send him a ticket to come home.”

“Come home?” George said in a startled voice.

“Yes, the new friends do not want him there anymore because he can not pay anything. He says he will be on the street if you do not help.” George just shook his head.

“What shall I tell him?” Axel asked urgently.

“Oh,” George thought a moment.  “Tell him ‘Good Luck’.”

Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal
THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR – RICH PASCHALL

The Class of South Pacific, by Rich Paschall

Most of your high school and college graduates will not have the pleasure of hearing the typical graduation speeches this year.  Students are usually listening to them in wonder, perhaps even shock at some odd notion.  It seems like a peculiar thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time.

“These are the best years of your life,” a guest speaker may exclaim.  Some may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.”  The best year?

It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere.  “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves.  “What about the next 60 years?  You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”

Are these youthful years the best years of our lives?  Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything?  The answer is a surprising yes, and no.

graduation

When I was in the third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school.  To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit.  Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment.  However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors.  So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.

There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers like me and some I knew from grade school.  There were also new experiences. There were dances and plays.  They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all-boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies.  I took drama, not fourth-year Latin.  I came, I saw, I took something else.

The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends.  The interaction was an education itself.  Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.

The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.”  Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students.  I got the nerve to audition.  I have no idea what I sang.  Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up.  We were going to do South Pacific.  I was rather unaware of it.

I’m in this group, front row just left of center.

Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love.  Learning to play our parts was important.  We were commanded to be professional in everything.  We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.

When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi, and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it.  In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical.  We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us.  We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.

So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education.  We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, and in the gym which was also our auditorium.  We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold.  But was it the best year of my life?  If so, what about all the intervening years?

It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate.  Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so.  Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully, they are all positive.  Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.

While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is at 18 or 21.  Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going.  The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.
If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience.  You may say it was the best time ever.  If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind him to enjoy what he has because it will be the springboard to everything else.  It will be his touchstone.

Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story.  My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance.  I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.”  Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward to a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.

STUPIDITY REARS ITS UGLY HEAD – RICH PASCHALL

The View From Here, by Rich Paschall

Living Fearlessly

You have probably seen plenty of examples of this. There are those who need a haircut no matter what the risk. Some must have a party, no matter what stay at home orders have been issued. Others absolutely have to go to the beach, even if it is crowded. Those dying to get out and about don’t believe that they will be dying because they went out and about.

This week I saw two grade-school kids riding their bike down the street. They had no masks on. I did not recognize them as living nearby so perhaps they were just riding around the neighborhood. A day later I saw two different kids riding up and down the alley behind the house. They had masks but were not wearing them across their faces, just hooked around their ears and across their necks. They were probably told not to leave the house without them, so they didn’t. The two boys in the alley stopped to talk to an older girl. She did not have a mask on either. Recently I have been to two different convenience stores. As I went into one, a man was coming out sipping his coffee. He did not have a mask. A postal worker was buying a batch of Lotto tickets. She had no mask. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the checker that every single customer in that store did not have a mask. She and I were the only ones. A guy without a mask behind me in line got a piece of my mind. He did not say anything but he did back up a few steps. At another convenience store two young guys behind the counter were not wearing masks or gloves. I walked out.

I have seen the same sort of thing at the supermarket and the pharmacy. I tried to go to them in the first hour on a Tuesday or Thursday when it is Seniors only. Despite the signs on the doors, people enter who are not wearing masks. Some are not even Seniors.

You may have seen on the news, if you have the stomach to watch the news these days, that there are plenty of people out protesting for their right to congregate any way they wish. They even intimidate lawmakers by showing up at the state capital with automatic weapons. Many do not seem to think that any of their fellow protestors might have the coronavirus.

On our local Chicago news, we saw that business in neighboring Wisconsin had reopened. Despite bars and restaurants being encouraged to maintain social distancing, scenes from a crowded bar were broadcast. One of the people interviewed was a nurse from down here in hard-hit Cook County, Illinois. She has seen plenty of COVID-19 patients. Now she’s sorry she was interviewed at a bar.

Instant Karma

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead – John Lennon.

Perhaps you heard of the Virginia pastor who vowed to keep his church open unless he was in jail or in the hospital. He’s in the cemetery. He preached to a crowded church on March 22 and died on Easter of the virus. Parishioners and preachers have died of the virus because they thought they would be safe in a crowded church. An elderly priest died in Texas recently, but they seemed to dismiss this because he was old anyway. Some of his parishioners tested positive.

A Texas mom of two boys who declared the virus a “media hoax” died from it. So did an evangelical pastor who went to Mardi Gras. There are plenty of such cases. Some who contracted it have recovered after attending Mardi Gras, or a crowded party. Some didn’t.

Survivors of near-death experiences think we are moving too quickly to reopen businesses. “People don’t really understand how serious this is until they know somebody who’s going through it,” one survivor’s girlfriend claimed. I have seen enough of this type of interview on the news. In general, the survivor is very sorry for attending____________ (insert crowded event here).

In red counties that had strongly supported Trump, and have pushed to reopen businesses, the virus is on the rise. Four days after the Republican governor of Maryland started opening up businesses in the state, they had the largest number of positive tests for one day so far. Coincidence or karma?

Living In Fear

The sort of thing you see above in “Living Fearlessly” are the reasons that so many of us who are older or have suppressed immune systems live in fear. We can not count on going to the store and have all the patrons follow the rules. Some of us qualify to go to the store during the Senior hour, but that means nothing if the store is afraid to enforce the rules. I shop at stores that have large signs posted to wear masks, and certain hours are Seniors only, but it doesn’t matter.  If people are so willing to violate these rules about the store, we can probably guess that they are willing to break other rules too. Do we want to be in the store with them?

The lieutenant governor of Texas may believe that Seniors are willing to lay down their lives for the economy, but I have news for him. He can go out and take risks, but we don’t feel that way. We want to be around long enough to vote that sort of politician out of the political office or keep them from getting in.

I live in a two-flat house. My much younger neighbor upstairs had been very careful, wearing a mask and gloves to the stores. He was always cleaning and sanitizing. He gave me a special mask around Christmas time that not only covers nose and mouth but ears too. We had some bad winters in the past. I use it a lot now.

He has contracted the virus. He’s had girlfriends over to spend the night. There is more than one, I think. He probably trusted they were just as safe as he was otherwise. He was obviously wrong. Now he is sick. We have a common front hall and front door, common basement area with a common washer and dryer. We could touch a lot of the same surfaces in a day. He is not intentionally trying to kill off his older neighbors. Sometimes people just don’t think about it until it is too late.

Instant Karma Sources: “VIRGINIA PASTOR DIES FROM COVID-19… 3 Weeks After Holding Packed Service,” TMZ, tmz.com April 13, 2020.
Parishioner of Louisiana Church That Defied Virus Lockdown Dies From COVID-19, But Pastor Claims It’s a Lie,” by Rachel Olding, Daily Best, thedailybeast.com April 17, 2020.
Texas church cancels masses following the death of priest possibly from coronavirus,” by Meredith Deliso, ABC News, abcnews.go.com May 18, 2020.
Family Of COVID-19 Victim Who Criticized ‘Hysteria’ Around Virus Faces Online Attacks,” by Kelly McEvers, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 15, 2020.
Texas woman claimed COVID-19 is a media hoax & can be stopped by “faith.” Days later she died.” by Bil Browning, LGBTQNation, lgbtqnation.com April 7, 2020.
After enduring ventilators, body aches, fever, coronavirus survivors say states shouldn’t be reopening.” by Rick Jervis and Kameel Stanley, USA Today, usatoday.com May 18, 2020.
COVID-19 continues spreading into counties with strong Trump support,” by William H. Frey, Brookings, brookings.edu May 20, 2020.
Maryland Reports Largest Rise Yet In Coronavirus Cases 4 Days After Reopening,” by Bill Chappell, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 19, 2020.
See also: “Absolutely No Absolute Rights,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com April 8, 2020.

THE PROMISE OF LOVE – Rich Paschall

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job, then another.  Nothing satisfied him as he always worked long hours for little money.  He could not spend much time at the gym.  He could not enjoy the nightlife of the nearby city.

“Help me, George,” Jon pleaded one night.  “I want to keep going to the gym.  I want to have enough food to eat.  Please send me a little money.”  Jon’s stories may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but he was certainly very poor.  He was determined to tell George whatever seemed to convince him to send some money.

“OK, Jon.  I will send you something on payday.  Do not worry.” The periodic investment in the handsome Hispanic man seemed to bind them together, as least George thought so.

Jon also thought they were bound together, not just by a few US Dollars, but also by his constant declarations of friendship and love.

When a few months had passed since George’s impulsive visit, Jon wondered if the time was right to push his plan further along.  One warm night, Jon stood on the roof of his building and looked down on the poor buildings below, with their cheap block constructions, and old metal roofs.  It was a depressing sight.

poor suburb

The bright lights of the city in the distance were a reminder he had not achieved his goal.  He could wait no longer. This was the night for action. He called George.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared with confidence.

“What?” George said in a surprised voice that shook Jon a little.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”  Jon waited for a reply, but there was nothing for a long minute.  Then George said Jon only wanted a way to come to America.  He did not actually want George.

The response upset Jon.  As he lay in bed in his tiny apartment, he decided he must not lose George now, after all the time he invested.  So he spent weeks declaring his love and asking for marriage without success.  George said he had no other boyfriend, so Jon did not understand why they could not be married.

When Jon felt the situation lasted too long he said to George, “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

The conversation that followed last a long time, and after Jon insisted over and over he would be a good roommate and stay “as long as God wills,” George finally agreed.

Jon immediately researched what they needed to do to get married.  George gathered the documents Jon requested and sent them by express.  The papers were filed and the waiting game began.  Almost the entire summer went by before Jon got the marriage license.

George came as promised. The wedding was held with only one friend of Jon’s in attendance to take pictures, and a translator for George to know what was happening.  When the ceremony was done, George, Jon and his friend Vanessa all went into the city to celebrate.  After just two married nights together, George was gone.

return to the airport

The long process of getting a visa began.  Jon could not believe the complexity of the procedure or the number of documents he had to send to George.

“I have to get certified translations into English, Jon.  Then I will submit all.  You must be patient.”  It was hard to be patient, but George sent a little money every month and Jon could buy the food he wanted.

When the process had gone from Immigration to the State Department, to the American embassy in Jon’s country, the nervous young man met with his good friend, Vanessa.

Jon told her everything that had transpired and they seemed to be getting near a decision.

“And you will leave here to go to this strange place you have told to me?” Vanessa said.

“Yes, of course,” Jon said.  He could see the disappointment in Vanessa’s eyes.  He could not tell if this was because he might leave his close friend or because he would leave his country for a foreign land.

“Are you crazy?  You are with him only a few days and for that, you would leave us?” she asked.

“But we are working on this for a year now.  It will be my chance for a better life,” Jon said, but Vanessa replied with a look of doubt. After a short silence, she asked the important question.

“Do you think you will stay with this gringo once you get to America and meet other people?”

Jon’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Vanessa laughed, but only a little.

Next week: The conclusion.
Previously, in order:
I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal

BRING ON THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – RICH PASCHALL

Hungry Eyes, by Rich Paschall

My father knew all the best buffet restaurants and Swedish Smorgasbords. For a few years, it was a frequent weekend adventure to accompany my father and his wife to a buffet restaurant. There are not as many of these restaurants as there used to be in our area, and we hope the Covid-19 doesn’t kill off the ones that are left.

After we would go through the food line and start eating all the food we had claimed, my father would usually comment that our eyes were larger than our stomachs. This was because it always seemed like we took too much food. It was odd to have eaten so much that we could not go back to get one of the many desserts. That happened to me a number of times.

Apples and other fall fruits on display

It was the same when we went shopping. We were usually cautioned not to go to the supermarket when we were hungry. Our eyes would be bigger than our stomachs and we would put into the cart more things than we needed. This presented a particular problem when we picked up too many perishable products. According to my parents and grandparents, it was a bad thing not to eat the food on your plate or to buy things just to have to throw them away. “Don’t you know there are people starving in ________” (insert third world country here).

I get it. Those are really sad eyes when you have to throw food away. Yes, food has been abundant in this country and it is usually cheap, but no reason to toss it out.  And it may not remain inexpensive as we suffer through a global supply chain problem.

When you pick up those fruits and veggies at the supermarket, you may notice that they have colorful little stickers on them. They may indicate the company selling the goods (Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, etc). They might have a Produce number to assist the checker when you reach the cash register. They also usually indicate where the item came from.

Your avocados likely came from Mexico. The bananas probably came from Guatemala, but may have come from Honduras or Ecuador. Yes, we do grow a lot of fruits and vegetables here, but how can fresh fruits and vegetables be in the stores year-round when the harvest season is short?  The rest of the year the goods come from other countries, mostly in South and Central America. In fact, more than half of the fruit sold here each year is imported.

Despite the ease of growing tomatoes, we imported 2.3 billion dollars worth from Mexico in 2018. We got them from other countries too. We do love tomatoes! We also got onions, peppers, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables from Mexico. Check your labels.

One-third of the vegetables are imported. Yes, we do export some fruits and vegetables, but we import three times as much. Now during this unique situation for global transportation, how do all of these goods get here? Yes, there are some airplane freighters flying to some countries, but that is nowhere near the amount of “lift” needed.

The major airlines of the world all have cargo divisions. Their small commuter planes may take small packages to their destination, but those large widebody passenger aircraft carry a large variety of goods. This is how many commodities move from country to country. What if the planes are not flying? There are not enough airline freighters in the world to move cargo around.

The passenger Boeing 777-300 cargo capacity is 24,000 kilos or 52,910 pounds for Americans. About two-thirds of the belly space is used for cargo on the widebody aircraft. Before Covid-19 a large number of air carriers were flying into every major city in the world. Some places now have no international flights, and some just a few. How do your fruits and vegetables get here? Without passengers, many airlines are not flying at all. A few maintain a limited schedule. Air Canada stated recently that they are flying at 5 percent capacity.

Some of the airlines are flying with just cargo. With no passenger revenue, they must charge a much higher rate to make the flight financially viable. Many places need to move their goods now but are reluctant to pay a significantly higher price. What is the market place to do?

If you are shipping a perishable commodity, you can not wait for prices to go down. You pay whatever rate will get your goods to market, or you let them spoil and throw them out. Plowing your crops into the ground is a sad alternative to paying higher transportation costs.

Colombian airline in bankruptcy

How will those South and Central American fruits and vegetables get to North America? Colombian airline Avianca, a major player in South America and carrier of goods and passengers to Miami, has declared bankruptcy.  The airline has not flown since mid-March. They hope to be in the air again soon, but what about the goods that need to fly now?

Some customers have arranged to sign a Blocked Space Agreement (BSA) and even pay an airline upfront to come into their city. This means they will pay for a certain amount of space on a flight whether they use it or not.  The airline can then attempt to sell the additional space, or space in the other direction in order to cover the remaining costs and turn a profit. What does this mean to you?

If the only alternative for our trading partners to sell their goods is to pay a higher price, then they will do it. The result of that will show up on the supermarket shelf soon.

Last week Air Canada ran an all-cargo flight to Avianca’s home town of Bogota. They will run another soon. They are also running a cargo flight to Buenos Aires and on to Santiago. There was also one to Punta Cana and Montego Bay this week. They will try to work with South American sales teams to maintain some of these routes. Other airlines are attempting all cargo runs as well. No one is offering to move things at pre-COVID-19 prices.


Air Canada has now removed the seats of 4 777-300s and will do the same for one more, plus 4 Airbus 330s.

Sources: “A Surprising Amount of Your Fresh Fruit Actually Comes from Outside the U.S.,” by Abbey White, Food & Wine, foodandwine.com March 14, 2018.
Top Imported Fruits Most Loved by Americans,” by Daniel Workman, World’s Top Experts, worldstopexpert.com April 18, 2020.
Our Fleet & ULDs,” Air Canada Cargo, aircanada.com
Some of the world’s airlines could go bankrupt because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to an aviation consultancy. See the carriers that have already collapsed because of the pandemic.” by David Slotnik, Business Insider, bussinesinsider.com May 12, 2020
See also: “The Global Supply Chain Disruption,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, April 15, 2020.
Sending and Receiving Stuff,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, May 9, 2020.
Note: I worked in freight forwarding for 35 years. I have worked for Air Canada Cargo for the past year.