Friday, April 18


On a Lighter note, in re the Bay of Pigs

I was recently at a wedding that served as an impromptu Whapster reunion, with all four of us together for possibly the first time since graduation; the details of the weekend (Latin motets, incense, glorious vestments, Belgian lace, and then afterwards, clergy playing pool, the groom lifted up on our shoulders with the reception guests all chanting "Ru-dy, Ru-dy, Ru-dy," two waltzes, the Alma Mater at the end of the dance, the usual stuff) are not really pertinent here, but after the mass, I found myself in the crowd outside the church standing just behind Dan and Drew of the Holy Whapping. This isn't an exact record of the conversation, but it gives you the general idea, as well as the perils one faces when one is my friend.

DREW: But we gotta find Matt and R-- [another fellow half-Cuban], we promised we'd give them a ride!
DAN: I don't know where they went. What do you want me to do, sing the old Cuban national anthem?
ME: (coming up next to him, singing) Al combate corred bayameses, que la patria os contempla orgullosa...
DREW: You sort of just walked into that, didn't you?
ME: ...No temáis una muerte gloriosa, por morir por la patria...

Seriously, La Baymesa, it's like the Gilligan's Island themesong of Cubans in terms of first, knowing the lyrics almost preternaturally, and also in terms of potential for getting stuck in one's head. (Though, I know only the first verse of it, and like all good Americans only the first verse of the the Star Spangled Banner). You could be raised in Saskatchewan by Ukrainians and you'd still know the lyrics and cheerily martial tune, which appears to be a loose paraphrase of Non più andrai from Figaro, which brings to mind another conversation, in the car, with my mom and grandparents.

CD PLAYER: Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso, notte e giorno d'intorno girando...
MY GRANDFATHER: That sounds like La Bayamesa.
MOM: It's by Mozart.
CD PLAYER: Delle belle turbando il riposo, Narcisetto, Adoncino d'amor...
Maybe Mozart stole it from the Cubans.
MOM: Mami, I think Mozart was around before they wrote the national anthem.

On the other hand, Walter Reed gets all the glory for figuring out yellow fever when Carlos J. Finlay deserves some of the credit, so a little paranoia is perfectly understandable.

One final snippet. My mother, father and I, after taking in a solemn Tridentine mass and an architectural lecture, are capping off the final night of their visit by dining at a very "in" Cuban-Asian fusion restaurant in New York City (think crab rangoon meets croquettes, and lots of rice of many different kinds) and we notice on the dessert menu a two-person banana split called, rather charmingly, the Bay of Pigs. We decide to eat it in honor of my late uncle, who was in the invasion and spent 20 months in a Cuban prison as a consequence. (Castro called the exiles gusanos or worms, which also means "caterpillar," and so as a consequence, one exile peridocial listing the names of the fallen and imprisoned, after their return, shows a sweet little cartoon caterpillar saluting, while wearing a steel army helmet and holding a rifle. It's the cutest bit of Cold War family memorabilia I know.)

MOM: (To waitress) My brother did a tour of Bay of Pigs, so we're having it in his honor.
WAITRESS: Well, the Bay of Pigs is quite all three of you can eat it.

(Waitress leaves)

MOM: I wasn't sure if she was referring to the dessert or the battle.
ME: I wonder if she even knows it's a place.

Incidentally, the sundae was shaped like a landing-craft, which was very apt. If you're going to make money off the woes of Cuban history, better that than Che tee-shirts anyway. I suggest a "Repeal of the Platt Amendment" dessert wine.

Now, I really must have some fried plantains, the craving is getting hard to take.

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