Friday, September 11, 2015

A Day in the Life of Maximus

On a typical morning on The Chilean Miner I, Maximus stares down his Master, Elizabeth.  SSSSSTAAAAARE  SSSSSTAAAAARE.  Until she wakes up.  Eager with the anticipation of all the delicious treats he'll get on his morning walk, he starts panting.  Elizabeth attempts to slide the dog over to the left of the couch before putting up his ramp, otherwise, his head gets hit by the ramp, which never really seems to bother him but it bothers her.  Lifting the ramp, Maximus gets so excited he can't wait for the carpet to the rolled out.  The carpet that provides him the grip to get up the ramp.  Not the celebrity kind of carpet.  The carpet is rolled out and Maximus is able to climb, with some help from Mom.

YAY!  I'm out!  He gets so excited to go trick or treating on the dock that he can't wait and climbs around the winch to the deck and finds his way under the lifeline, falling rather than jumping to the dock from 3 feet up.  If not for his chest and shoulders being strong, his back legs wouldn't have allowed him to do it.  Not even 2 years ago.

WOOHOO!  I'm free!  Maximus starts to gallop down the dock, almost missing Tony's boat, he slides to an abrupt stop, his back end falling to a stop.  Getting back up he goes down Tony's finger.  Waiting and hoping the staring game will get him noticed, Tony does not show up and he decides to leave.  Bouncing over to Baron's boat, he drinks some water out of the bowl originally designated for the cat, Ito.  This is no ordinary water, Ito cannot drink the tap water, so this specific bowl comes from a bottle.  "Come on boy!" She pulls the leash.  No response.  "Let's go Maximus!"  Nothing  "BUTTHEAD!"

Taking advantage of all the cat's water, he is ready to go when it is gone.

Stopping briefly to see if someone familiar is on the Water Witch, he moves onto the next stop, Don and Carol's boat!!!  Maximus barges right up to the boat, nearly falling in every single time.  Carol sees him and immediately comes out of the boat to get a him treat.  Elizabeth attempts to make Maximus sit, (back when he could hear and was able to actually sit painless) as Carol slowly hands him the treat...  "gentle.... gentle..."

Maximus is thinking, "watch your fingers... watch your fingers..."


Treat is gone in 0.7 seconds!  MAGIC

Making their way down the dock and up the ramp, Maximus anticipates his time to sniff the grass, make pee pee and spend time with people.  (He prefers to stay away from dogs- they annoy him) They walk down to the palm trees, get swayed by the people eating bacon at the sportfishers cafe, a few pets from kids that are always respectful and ask first if they can pet him.  When finally ready, Maximus, AKA Butthead, decides to take his morning poop.  He curves his back and starts walking...  stops and pushes and walks... Mommy prepares the poop bag... a turd!  More walking and pushing... another turd!  More walking... and 2 more turds and he's done.  "I wish you'd poop in one place, dog!"

Making their way around the grass, they return to the sportfishers and get some more pets and a few questions from on-lookers.  Someone has always had a labrador before and has a cute story to tell.  Maximus is getting tired at this point, but as soon as he sees the dockmaster's office, he gets a pep in his step!  John makes a point of coming out to greet us with a handful of treats... and the last one always goes 'to Mom'.  This is so she can lure him away from John.

"Now that you've had your morning treats, let's go eat breakfast!"  Maximus turns to look at John a few more times before reluctantly heading down the ramp... 'fine... I guess...'

Happily skipping down the dock, they arrive at their slip and get some more water before retiring to the cockpit for the day.  Elizabeth pulls the boat to the steps and Maximus hops up onto the deck, into the cockpit and onto his cushion.  Standing in the cockpit, waiting for his food, as it's being prepared he gets so anxious he can't control it anymore and starts drooling...  In a hurry, she mixes the sardines and oil into his food and serves it too him.  Maximus promptly gobbles it up.

He finds himself comfortably on his cushion until Mommy leaves for the day...  normally staring out over the water, smelling the bacon from neighbors or sometimes just passes out entirely in the morning air.

When it's time to go, Maximus gets woken up yet again after Mommy puts together his ramp and walks him down the ramp onto his soft bed, get a couple of big kisses and goes back to sleep while Mommy is out for the day.

5 o'clock is always a very important time on D Dock.  It's dinnertime and Maximus knows it.  Mommy does her best to get home then because he could very possibly be starving to death!  Sometimes, Maximus is so excited he can't even get out of the way long enough to get the ramp up!  This means he gets knocked in the head, sometimes falls off the couch or ends up getting lifted into the cockpit with Mommy's arms and hamstrings- careful not to sprain her back again!

The dinner cannot be served quick enough!  And it's gone even quicker than it was served!  Whoosh!  A few licks of the bowl to make sure he gets it all and he's ready to adventure on the afternoon walk!
Along the deck, under the lifeline and falling to the dock, he takes off!  WAIT!  He stops for water.  And more water... and more water... and it's gone...  

Tony!  Water Bowl!  Baron!  Water Bowl!  Carol!  

And up to the grass they go, with all the excitement imaginable.  This time, an even longer walk is in order as the evening unwinds and the sun goes down.  Sometimes the walk goes all the way to the Ventura Bridge and sometimes over to the lifeguard station to watch the sunset.

The Butthead sniffs everything, defying the leash every moment he can, hard-headed following his nose always.  Back on the boat, Maximus takes his place and gets ready as Mommy prepares her own dinner.  Sometimes she does meat and he can't simply lay and watch, he has to be a part of the action!

If he's lucky, he gets some human food, depending upon if there are guests or not.  If Grandma is visiting, he gets to lick the plates too!  One more evening walk before the day is done, and Mommy brings Maximus back into the boat where he waits, drooling, for the 3 little treats Mommy gives him every night, if he's been good!  The dog cannot go to sleep without these treats, he knows they are coming every night.  Afterwards, he promptly falls asleep after a long day of treat hunting, water drinking and walking.  Dreaming, he rejuvenates for the another day of the same fun.

Thank you for reading.  I wanted to memorialize him this way because he lived such a great life his last 2.5 years.  This dog never slept on a hard floor since I got him.  And he never went a day without a treat.  Getting a senior dog was actually really good for me.  He organized my schedule, taught me to stop at nothing to get what I want (TREATS), and he certainly kept me selfless with his hefty demands of walks, treats, sardines, injuries, and monthly baths!

There were those times when I had to be THAT person that couldn't stay to work on a research project at school or hang out after work because "My dog is going to kill me if I don't get home soon!"  

And who could forget the time he fell in the water, swam under the dock and then under the finger before anyone even knew he had disappeared!?  Or, the time he stole Cousin Dave's perfectly crafted sandwich from his dock box?  Or, the rare occasions he barked in the mountains, protecting us from the mountain lions?  

Thank you for everyone's support over the years in watching him when I was away, giving him a literally lifelong supply of treats and walking him when I couldn't get home quick enough or was injured myself.  He and I both appreciated it.

Good, good dog.  R.I.P. Maximus

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


What was the grand strategy?

Did the Castro's really believe that capitalism was going to fall?  Were they looking for power or did Fidel want to help his people and therefore built a 'revolution'?  How does Cuba's communism compare to other versions I've seen?  How are the reforms going?  Is their current 'opening' going to cause any environmental destruction or inequalities?  Will Cuba ever have private education?

Truth be told, I admire the regime.  They have done a better job of organizing the country than some Western countries.  From what I could tell, the oppression I was bracing for, doesn't exist.  Of course, I wasn't there in the in the 90s and I tend to believe that the 'not so good' areas of Cuba are hidden from tourists and/or Americans.  Either that, or I'm a socialist. 

The buildings are dilapidated and an urban planner showed us precisely why.  The average salary is $20 USD a month.  A gallon of paint is roughly $7.  That doesn't leave much to live on if you want to feed your family.  The restriction on cars is fascinating.  There are only old American cars from the 50s, a collection of Soviet-era cars and then new ones that Raul has decided to allow in 2008, BMW, Mercedes, Geely (Chinese).  I even saw a few Skodas.  Every dashboard, aside for the well -refurbished ones we toured in for an afternoon, has a mish-mash of parts; made in Czechoslovakia, Cyrillic writing and Honda cooling systems.  And, of course, the highly educated Cubans who are doctors and lawyers are not the top of the socio-economic ladder, it's the ones who work in tourism and deal with the CUC (the currency used for tourist and foreign investors- CUP being the national currency)  We met an English catering gynecologist who was working as a waiter because it pays better.  These are all reasons why the regime has started to make reforms and has invited foreign investment, on their own terms of course.

It can be argued that the huge influx of American tourists will bring about the ugly changes that no one likes in an overly touristic community (pick-pocketing, swindling, over-charging, etc), but, as the woman of the casa particular I stayed in, who was a very opinionated woman, told me, "We've always had tourists".  It's just the Americans that haven't been around for decades.  We're also the likely candidates to turn in a car once it's passed 100K miles.  Or once the muffler rusts through, or the dash doesn't work, or it's been totaled by two deer.  The Cubans are incredibly resourceful and
just like the cars, they already have in place a Marine Protection Agency, which cites a study done over 40 years of the destruction of the Florida Keys coral and marine life using GIS.  This is according to an Economist who works for the University of Cuba- he may or may not have been simply telling us a story to show they are prepared for reform; I've also heard they have let a lot of the coastline self-degrade. 

The bars we went to in La Habana seemed no different than higher end bars in developing countries.  The Fabrica de Arte Cubana was truly an experience, a place where youth gather, wait in line in mini-skirts, pay a cover, grab a mojito or rum and coke and look at art or dance all night.  Inside, it felt like a combination of the Nacional in Madrid, Double Deuce downtown San Diego and Dali's museum in Figueres.  Nevermind that the bar is a creation of the government.  I only wish I had used the bathroom there, I was dehydrated for the first few days due to the humidity and not having the first world luxury of drinking from the faucet and therefore did not use it.  I can say, however, that myself and two others had stopped into a restaurant/bar on the way home one day to use the bathroom and it was so nice we just had to have a drink inside.  They also served gazpacho and while it was good, it was not as good as mine or others I've had.  That bar, a private bar, was most likely sponsored by a Cuban living abroad and once we stopped in there and then later went there at night with the group, I started to see stickers for the place on cars around town, very clever marketing in a country where Yelp doesn't exist.  It's called Sarao if you're interested and it's in Vedado from what I can tell.

The other stickers found in and on cars, even the old ones, were both Playboy stickers and the Apple sticker.  Peculiarly with the American flag backdrop.  I guess Apple has been clever as well.  Viva California!  Playboy and Apple at least...  and Google... gmail at least is alive and well according to some emails I received.

We spent some time in the tobacco fields (an experience that got me choked up) and on the coast snorkeling on the reef mid-week.  I thought I was being smart by only paying 2 CUC at the gas station we stopped at on the way for a large bottle of water and a small juice box container of rum.  Until I tried getting away with a free pineapple juice from the man on the beach who looked into my eyes and told me how I beautiful I was and then charged me $2.50!!  I put up a fight and he threw in a banana.  (I needed the potassium anyway after having swam out to the reef and back).  I did do an interesting swap of goods at the beach too, my swim googles for a Cuban Red Cross cap and t-shirt, brokered with the assistance of a classmate.  Apparently, my $5 goggles I got from Big Five two years ago are incredibly amazing.  I promptly suggested I organize I triathlon in the area since triathletes care about the environment and would be best suited to bring in healthy development.

Back in La Habana, I finally had a chance to talk to people that I wasn't introduced to and spent two hours in one plaza gathering information.  Normally the people that sell antique oddities, books, coins and stamps/postcards are also relatively old.  However, this plaza was full of young men that were well suited for my mother, if you know what I mean.  Probably because they make more money in tourism than working as an Engineer for the government.  It felt like a Prague square 10 years ago and there were actually hundreds of old Soviet lapel pins.  I bought one from Bulgaria, Romania and finally found one from Poland.  I found a postcard that had been sent from New York City in 1910 to La Habana.  I found a very fascinating piece of propaganda from the 50s that I bought for my post-communist BFF.  And then I found myself in conversation with a man who must have been in his 50s, called Sixto Valon.  He seemed like any normal black Cuban man, he and his younger counterparts offered me a fermented drink made from a root, called pru. 

This man helped me find my way to the Marina Hemingway, answered some sociological and cultural questions I had and then asked me about the police in the United States who kill black men.  Of all the pressing questions, this was on the top of his mind.  He asked me how many times it has happened since Obama was elected, as if his presidency has prompted it.  When I went in to explain the socio-economic reasons and the racism behind it, he was mesmerized.  Luckily for him, I was able to use some of the skills I learned in my Ethnicity class last quarter on the fails of policies directed toward minorities.  Like a proud revolutionary, or a speculating bookseller, he told me that their are no poor areas of Cuba made up of purely blacks or any other minority and these kind of murders simply don't happen.  (Nevermind the human rights violations committed by the Castros)While I couldn't answer his question of how many blacks have been killed by police in the United States since Obama has been president with a solid number, we both walked away with a deeper understanding of each other's culture.  There were many other topics we discussed as well.  In addition, his email address is a gmail.

When the American journalist we met with, who has been writing from Cuba for Reuters for 25 years, told us that Fidel was never after money, only power, I asked if that was why, using my fingers as quotes, the revolution has been so 'successful' all these years.  He questioned my use of words and I explained that as I saw it, there have been no uprisings, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, after 57 years.  Perhaps they have all been hidden from Western eyes and ears HOWEVER, a man living in Cuba as a journalist for so many years wasn't able to give me any reasons aside for the collapse of the Soviet Union causing rafts of Cubans to show up in the 90s and the current 'brain drain' going on among the youth to believe that change will cause violence or vice versa.  (There is an opportunity to quote Petersen's Resistance and Rebellion here to prove that there are not enough oppressed groups to form cleavages that would cause any uprisings)  As a matter of fact, as the Economist we met with explained to us that instead of organizing society using doctors and teachers, the Cuban government is poised to use economic models to organize society using mojitos and Guantanamera players to guide tourism in the way that only a Socialist society can. 

The next 10 weeks is really going to be fascinating, as we are now in the spring quarter and are taking the Cuba; Revolution and Reform class.  I am also taking in conjunction, a Human Rights class and either Mexican Policy Making or Managing a Non-Profit.  Perhaps I should return over the summer.  With some real numbers on those murders on black people in the US. 

This was written with haste and I have been hesitant to write anything since I've started graduate school since my ramblings seem to have less importance than the academic stuff I've been reading and writing.   (This is considered an op-ed and I am by no means a Socialist) :)