I’ve been around the block a time or two. I should know how things work.
I do know. I just forgot.
I forgot that even when you say, “Here’s this good idea, that we need something that shows all the hidden relationships in local governing and influence, but I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT. I DON’T HAVE THE TIME to do it, I’m NOT THE RIGHT PERSON to do it. I WON’T DO IT! But it needs to be done, this good idea I’m throwing out there, for someone else to do…”
Guess who’s going to wind up doing it? By unanimous acclaim. Out of all the others who also had the idea but kept their lips zipped. How many good ideas never get spoken, because smarter people than I know not to go there?
This isn’t even my idea. I won’t put the person on the spot who did announce some time ago they were taking it on (will I, DJ? of course I won’t), but that person passed along the info they gathered and while it’s very useful, it’s not a tree chart, where you can trace all the relationships and timelines, and creating that from the mass of data will be the trick. You may have to be some special savant stone-cold math music mastermind genealogy tech freak for that. Anyone know one?
LAPTOPS, BEVERAGES, RESULTS?
Someone suggested, “I think if we gathered six to eight people and a few laptops,
beverage of choice etc., we could have a fun time knocking out a chart.” I foresee
an emphasis on fun time, lots of arguing and laughing escalating with time and beverage consumption, but results, uncertain.
Another offered, “I actually started a chart a couple years ago with a major local political organization and some key members as the hub. It got very complicated and I don’t know all the relationships but I would happy to work with you to finish it.” Yeah, complicated.
Also, this insight: “Look at the boards and Commissions. Look who sits on them. Look at the public/private partnerships formed to tear down public institutions. Look there because the so-called watchdogs are flipping power while we idle online.”
Well then, you better get started, right? Oh. Yeah. It’s on me. Okay, y’all can start sending me what you know for sure because the first thing is to get extensive, accurate data. Then, wrestle with that gnarly tree and its many tangled branches.
I’ll repeat what I offered last week as the raison d’etre for this project: I keep saying we need a heap more common sense in governing Santa Monica, but that assumes there is a place for it, and in many instances, there isn’t. Because what looks like unfortunate incompetence or a one-time error or a lack of common sense is often very intentional manipulation and maneuvering, based on labyrinthian long range ambitions, relationships, and the stratagem thereof. The rest of us start with two strikes on a very uneven playing field, without that knowledge.
I have a wise friend in the desert who came up with the Life Rule for herself that Expectation is the Mother of All Disappointments. (Actually, I substituted “disappointments” for her colloquialism for “big blameworthy mistakes,” but this is a family newspaper, folks.) So I was briefly disappointed when pulling away from the Havana airport because not every single car I saw was a vintage American classic.
But I soon realized that I was truly in cool car heaven, far outstripping even car crazy Southern California. In eye-popping colors. (I saw eight shades of green I never even knew existed.) From ‘40s models right up to 1959, the year of Fidel’s La Revolución cubana (and his banning of new car imports), there was everything low rider dreams are made of, rolling by — except I never saw an Imperial or Lincoln Continental (luxury cars not likely to have made it to Cuba’s middle or lower economic classes, though you do see some Cadillacs), or, oddly enough, Mercuries.
Maybe they heard the tale of our family’s 1957 lemon — a cool spaceship redesign from 1956’s rounded respectability, that the kid in the back seat just loved for its unprecedented “power retractable rear window” that begged me to recklessly stick my nose into the wind like a happy spaniel and wave to those lesser mortals behind us who never even knew such a fun thing existed. My Pop, however, quickly tired of it breaking down, starting literally right after we drove it out of the factory in Detroit, and went back to Buicks and Oldsmobiles for the rest of his life. Maybe Cubans had Mercuries, but they all broke down.
NO, THAT’S NOT IT
Because keeping old cars running, because you have no alternative, is something that makes a mechanic out of most Cuban car owners. If you were lucky enough to have an American car, brought in from Florida 90 miles away in the heady corrupt capitalist days of Batista, you kept it going, all these decades, jerry rigging and making your own parts because of the U.S. blockade, still mostly in effect.
Most of the plates on these cars begin with a “P,” meaning it is a cab. It’s my impression most Cubans, despite tough economics, are very honest — except for some cabbies, adjusting uneasily to the recent lifting of set fares. Negotiate before you go, ask a friendly Cuban how much it should be, or you’ll probably be taken for a ride. Still, most rides in spread-out Havana will run you less than six bucks. In a dadgum 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, no less.
I’m trying to remember spotting a newish model car (like, 20-30 years old) or a Mercedes, BMW or Porsche. Not saying they’re not there, in the gated communities or five-star hotels, but you’re much more likely to see a crappy old Russian leftover like the Lada or Muskvitch, or a tiny Polish Fiat.
Go for the cars, go for the people, the food, the music, the history, the architecture, the Cuba Libres and Mojitos, but go.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What’s worse, a blind dentist pulling your wisdom teeth with a dirty old mechanic’s wrench and no novocaine, or listening to Bill Walton “call” a basketball game?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at