Saturday, May 31, 2008

Che’s Bolivian Diary – The Lost Episodes (Part IV)

July 1, 1967

They say that in capitalist countries, a lot of intelligence can be picked up in the men’s room. It’s not so dissimilar on the frontline of the revolution, here in the Bolivian wilderness.

I was relieving myself behind some bushes yesterday, and could hear Julio and Felipe chatting nearby, as they cleaned their weapons. Their conversation centered on my relationship with Tania, a comrade who had made her way from La Paz and arrived in our camp late last week. Tania and I had met in East Germany several years ago, and her admiration had blossomed into love. But what of it? I am not only the world’s most charismatic revolutionary; I am also a man, and I have to admit, my feelings for her were strong, as well. After all, there aren’t any cold showers in the jungle – except when it rains, and it wasn’t raining the day Tania came swishing into camp wearing those hip-hugging fatigues, her long, dark hair tied loosely behind her beret, her eyes moist with hero worship. Anyway, I attended to the conversation of my men.

Felipe: “Well, I think it’s disgusting. Here we are, trying to bring the workers’ paradise to these filthy, ungrateful peasants, and Ché spends his time in his tent canoodling with Tania.”

Julio: “Tell me about it! You can hear them all over the camp. All that theatrical moaning and yelling: ‘Oh! Oh! Storm the winter palace, my vanguard of the proletariat! Oh! Oh!’”

Felipe: “Haw! And the thing is, Ché’s the only one who doesn’t know that she’s faking it.”

Julio: “I also heard somewhere that she’s a KGB plant. I know the Russians are our allies, but why would they want to spy on Ché? I don’t trust her.”

I had heard enough. This was potentially very serious business. I took an old copy of Granma from my back pocket and tore off a big piece to wipe with. I was so distracted by what I had heard, that it wasn’t until I finished cleaning myself that I noticed the piece of newspaper I had used featured a page-sized picture of Fidel. No offense, jefe!

I returned to my tent, drew the flap back, and marched in, determined to have it out with Tania. It was quite possible that Felipe and Julio had just picked up some idle, ill-informed gossip, but I couldn’t take any chances.

She was lying on the cot, propped up on the bundle of clothes we used as a pillow. Her left hand cupped her right elbow, and she was holding a smoldering cigarette. Her black eyes gleamed at me with adoration, and although she was a brunette, the way her long raven tresses fell over one eye reminded me of the bourgeois blond American actress Veronica Lake. She was wearing an olive-drab tank-top and those little red panties with the gold hammer and sickle design that made me want to howl for the dictatorship of the proletariat. For a moment, I felt my resolve weakening, but I steeled myself against my baser urges and confronted her.

“Tania. Is it true? Are you . . . faking it?”

She gave me a melting look, tossed her cigarette on the ground, and held her hands out to me. “Che . . . baby. Come to Tania! I’ll show you who’s faking!”

Later, after the . . . “withering away of the state” . . . we shared a cigarette. She cuddled up to me, and I stroked her lovely black hair.



“Felipe and Julio are showing signs of bourgeois backsliding.” She removed the cigarette from my mouth with her exquisitely long, slender fingers, and took a drag. “Why don’t you have them shot?” she purred.

“Ah, my little heroine of socialist labor! But who, then, would carry our tent? Perhaps, after we have raised the red flag over La Paz.”

“Promise... my stakhanovite stud?”

“I promise.” I rolled over and took her in my arms. “Let’s play ‘hide the stogie’”, I whispered in her ear.

To my surprise, she pushed me gently, but firmly, away.

“Listen, Che, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”

“Ok, I’m listening.”

Tania leaned over the side of the cot and grabbed a magazine from the ground – Popular Mechanics, of all things. She opened it and turned to the ads in the back. “Look at this,” she said, the excitement in her voice mounting.

I took the magazine reluctantly and looked at the advertisement she had pointed out. There was a photograph of a grinning gringo wearing a t-shirt, “Your Message Here” stenciled across the front.

I was puzzled. “Well, yes. So?”

“Darling, this is the solution to our funding problems! The U.S. is honeycombed with enclaves of communists and their sympathizers. We could print a picture of you on the t-shirts, along with a slogan – Viva La Revolución or something - sell them to our supporters in the U.S. and Europe, and use the profits to finance our operations in Bolivia!”

For a moment, I was too stunned to speak; however, I finally found my voice (although, later, I rather wished I hadn’t). “Tania…querida…I’m sorry to have to say it, but that is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

The smile vanished from her face, and she gave me a glare so frosty that it froze my ardor quicker than a double-dose of saltpeter. She quietly closed the magazine and laid it on her lap; her words were now like drops of hydrochloric acid, falling steadily on the tenderest part of my amour-propre. “Permit me to remind you… comrade…that funds from Havana have been few and far between, and that your own efforts to raise money locally have been something considerably less than a smashing success. You remember the bank robbery – pardon me, the attempted bank robbery - in Cochabamba, of course.”

“Hey, listen, that was Julio who was fobbed off with a sack of blank deposit slips.”

“And the mail truck heist?”

“You have to admit, we at least collected some interesting stamps.”

“Great. You can use them to mail letters home from prison when you run out of food and ammunition and have to turn yourself in, half starved, to the first gap-toothed rural cop you can find.”

I took a deep breath and counted silently to ten. I knew this would take patience and finesse. “Tania, my little red cupcake, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your trying to help. But you are talking to the preeminent revolutionary strategist in the world, you know. Now, why don’t you stop worrying your pwitty widdle head over such matters and let’s get down to that other business we were discussing; how does that sound?”

* * *

Night had fallen some time ago, and the men’s cook fires were dying down. Julio and Felipe were rolled in their blankets snoring. I nudged Julio with my boot.

“Huh? Wha…whazza matter? Oh…it’s you, comandante. What’s up?”

“Move over.” I threw my bedroll on the ground, climbed into it, and wrapped it tightly around myself. Julio was looking at me quizzically and was about to speak, when I silenced him. “Just shut up and go back to sleep.”

The Difference

I'm not, to put it mildly, comfortable with all of John McCain's policy positions (notably, immigration and campaign finance "reform"). But on certain bedrock issues, including most importantly the war on terrorism and support for our troops, the differences across the board between him and Obama are going to make it a lot easier for me to vote for McCain in November.

His family's tradition of service makes it even easier. Friend and commenter Skeeter sends the following item (it is an e:mail story that is making the rounds, but is worthy of note):

"John McCain's Sons

Talk about putting your most valuable where your mouth is! Apparently this
was not "newsworthy"enough for the media to comment about. Can either of the
other presidential candidates truthfully come close to this? ...

Just a question for each of us to seek an answer, and not a statement.

You see...character is what's shown when the public is not looking. There
were no cameras or press invited to what you are about to read about, and
the story comes from one person in New Hampshire.

One evening last July, Senator John McCain of Arizona arrived at the New
Hampshire home of Erin Flanagan for sandwiches, chocolate-chip cookies and a
heartfelt talk about Iraq. They had met at a presidential debate, when she
asked the candidates what they would do to bring home American soldiers - -
soldiers like her brother, who had been killed in action a few months

Mr. McCain did not bring cameras or press. Instead, he brought his youngest
son, James McCain, 19, then a private first class in the Marine Corps about to
leave for Iraq. Father and son sat down to hear more about Ms. Flanagan's brother
Michael Cleary, a 24-year-old Army First Lieutenant killed by an ambush ...
a roadside bomb.

No one mentioned the obvious: In just days, Jimmy McCain could face
similar perils. 'I can't imagine what it must have been like for them as they were
coming to meet with a family that ......' Ms. Flanagan recalled, choking up.
'We lost a dear one,' she finished.

Mr. McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee, has staked his
candidacy on the promise that American troops can bring stability to Iraq.
What he almost never says is that one of them is his own son, who spent seven
months patrolling Anbar Province and learned of his father's New Hampshire
victory in January while he was digging a stuck military vehicle out of the mud.

Two of Jimmy's three older brothers went into the military. Doug McCain, 48,
was a Navy pilot. Jack McCain, 21, is to graduate from the Naval Academy next
year, raising the chances that his father, if elected, could become the first
president since Dwight D. Eisenhower with a son at war."

Bob Dole 1, Scott McClellan 0

Bob Dole ripped Scott McClellan a proverbial "new one" in a scathing e:mail. Sweet!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good Question

The Dread Pundit Bluto asks, "Why does it seem that most every sordid, underhanded attempt to humble America before the world and encourage her enemies to kill more Americans leads back to George Soros? .

Friday Happy Feet

At last! The end of a long week, which means - for me - a brief respite from slogging through the bureaucratic trenches. Time to celebrate with a little tune from the Andrews sisters.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Does This Scarf Make My Ass-Hat Look Big?

Congressharpy Nancy Pelosi managed to simultaneously:

1) belittle the sacrifices of our troops;
2) insult General Petraeus; and
3) grovel to Iran

A trifecta!

See the excellent Gateway Pundit for details.


Michael Moore, in Washington, D.C. to address the quarterly meeting of the America Last Committee, strolled along the Mall, rehearsing his comments. He carried a sack of food that he had purchased at a popular fast-food restaurant, and in between muttering snatches of his speech, he munched on a Mc-Side-of-Beef Muffin and took an occasional gulp from his Keg-O-Cola.

“Thank you for inviting me to be here today”, he said to himself, his whiny, nasal voice exciting angry comment in the vicinity of a mockingbird’s nest, and provoking a squirrel to chatter in a state of high dudgeon. “Well, we’re finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in this election year”…(at the remote edge of his consciousness, there was the sound of heavy equipment)… “And a good thing, too, since we’re all pretty ‘Bushed’ by now…Let’s see…’Pause for laughter and applause’…(munch, munch, munch)…An’ fo, wifow furver ado…(*slurp*)…I’d like to…Hey!...HEY!!...H-E-Y!!!”

(Bob Mitchum, piloting the world’s largest earthmover, scoops up Michael Moore, dumps him into the reflecting pool, and pops a humongous wheelie, causing the earthmover to straddle the narrow pond, effectively trapping Moore in the water. Climbing down from the cab, Mitchum tosses the keys into the pond, reties the belt on his trench coat, and walks toward the Metro).

Check It Out

A promising series from the Shadowlands.

Che’s Bolivian Diary: The Lost Episodes (Part III)

I knew it was a bad idea to split our forces, I just knew it. Joaquin’s group hasn’t made contact for over two weeks; totally lost in the jungle, no doubt. Of course, I’m lost, too, but Joaquin’s the one who has the working compass, and the good maps (my maps turned out to be from the Congo - a splendid souvenir of our glorious effort in Africa, but of dubious value in the present situation. Note: find out who packed map case; have shot).

But all of that is merely a temporary logistics problem. Right now, I’m squatting here by a creek with my men, decked out in camouflage hand-picked by Julio, and I’m starting to get a rash. We’re planning to ambush a Bolivian patrol, absolute quiet is necessary, and my ears are assaulted by the rasping noise of six men scratching furiously. I swear, I think this stuff Julio picked is poison ivy.

“Quiet!”, I whisper loudly. “The dictatorship of the proletariat depends on the overthrow of bourgeois sensibilities.” Naturally, wise-guy Fernando has to pipe up. “, comandante. But do we have to give up bourgeois calamine lotion, too? I swear, chief, I think this stuff is poison ivy.” Why is it that, whenever I’m right, it’s always bad news?

I silenced them. There is a noise of tramping on the other side of the creek. The Bolivian patrol! I signal to my men to be ready to fire on my command.

It’s starting to rain. Thank Stalin for that! Maybe the rainfall will drown out the racket made by the men – honestly, with all that scratching, it’s starting to sound like a nail-filing exam at a women’s beauty academy. The trouble, though, is, it is the cusp of the evening and it’s getting dark. It will be difficult to tell precisely where the troops will ford the creek.

The light begins to fade in earnest, and the green of our jungle surroundings is changing to gray and black. There! Our foes are pushing through the brush on the opposite bank of the creek. On to victory!

* * *

Or not. It’s the sort of thing that, in rare private moments, almost makes me agnostic about Marxism.

“Fire!”, I had shouted, and we poured a fusillade in the direction of the Bolivian patrol.

Our marksmanship – for once – turned out to be flawless (or so it seemed at the time). There was no return fire. We approached the bank of the creek warily, waded across, and discovered that our marksmanship had, indeed, been good: we had killed a wild pig. “Flashlight!”, I ordered, in what I’m afraid was a voice husky with disappointment. Felipe handed me his Soviet-made electric torch and I flipped the switch back and forth several times; I sighed the sigh of the long-suffering revolutionary. “Matches!”, I growled, through clinched teeth. By the flickering light of the match, I could see that we had not only succeeded in killing a pig, but had done so without hitting it with a single bullet. Sixty rounds of precious ammunition expended to bag a wild pig that apparently had been frightened to death by the mere noise of our shots.

“Well, bundle him up and we’ll take him back to camp. At least we’ll eat well tonight.”

Alas, it was not to be. Our neighborhood was suddenly filed with rifle fire, and bullets were ricocheting off of the tree trunks. That damned Bolivian patrol!

I ordered my men to hightail it, but, as always seems to be the case when a rapid tactical withdrawal is called for, they had anticipated my command. We somehow managed to regroup at our camp a mile or so from the scene of our latest set-back. After swallowing a handful of berries apiece (our packaged rations had run out two days ago), and washing them down with stagnant water, we tried to rest, but the poison ivy camouflage had done its work, and we were in agony. And the agony was to be made even worse an hour later, when the scratching noise of my men was supplemented by a wave of – how can I put it? – an almost orgasmic moaning. I called Fernando over and asked him what the problem was. “Can’t you smell it, chief?” My asthma was flaring up and I had a sinus infection, to boot, so, frankly I couldn’t smell a thing. “What, Fernando, what do you smell?”

“Roast pork, comandante! Those Bolivian bastards are eating our pig!” I strained my overtaxed bronchioles and was just barely able to detect a trace of the delicious aroma, wafting into camp on the same light breeze that also brought the sound of laughter and singing from our victorious foes. Well, I thought to myself, eat, drink and be merry, my reactionary friends, for tomorrow you shall die (Note: check source of that phrase; believe it might be Patrice Lumumba, or perhaps Mao).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Robert Mitchum. . . What a guy!

You know, whenever a politician or celebrity or some other public figure says something particularly stupid or insulting, I always wonder, "What Would Bob Do?"

Jimmy Carter: "The blockade against Hamas-controlled Gaza is one of the greatest crimes on earth."

Bop! Smack! Ka-Thump! (Bob Mitchum leans down, strikes a match on the exposed grin of the unconscious Carter, lights his cigarette, puts his hands in the pockets of his trench coat, and casually walks away).


Dminor tells the inside story of what happened to Tim Blair.

I was relaxing after an exhausting day or so of blogging – you know, sitting in a rattan chair under a ceiling fan, with a quinine-soaked towel wrapped around my head – when I was struck by an odd aroma: an amalgam of stardust, mead and just the slightest trace of Cincinnati chili. That’s when I knew that our old friend Wronwright had dropped by. He has honored me – all of us, really – with a comment to my first post. We expect – nay! – we insist, that we hear from him more often.

Just in time for Father’s Day, these fine gifts from Paco Products. (H/T The Scribbler's Pen)

Che’s Bolivian Diary: the Lost Episodes (Part II)

[Ed. Note: This is the first complete entry from the diary]

May 17, 1967

There are times when I wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off just going back to Buenos Aires and setting up a medical practice specializing in the treatment of rich old hypochondriacs instead of becoming the world’s most charismatic revolutionary.

Take today, for example. We finally – finally! – found one of these Bolivian hayseeds who speaks recognizable Spanish. After explaining the benefits of the dictatorship of the proletariat – plus threatening to shoot his wife and children, for good measure – I was pleased to see Jesús throw off the shackles of bourgeois superstition and embrace the revolution. He told us we were only a couple of miles from a proper town, so we could replenish our rapidly dwindling food supplies (And thank Lenin for that! One more downtrodden village filled with Indians and scrawny chickens and I would have gone mad). We couldn’t very well walk into the town wearing fatigues and berets, so I asked Jesús to obtain ponchos, sandals and some of those silly bowler hats that his people fancy. He collected what we needed, and even found a couple of burros to carry our provisions, so, Marchamos!

We approached the town warily, and when we arrived, tied our burros to a tree at the end of a dusty street. Jesús pointed us in the right direction, and stayed behind to watch the burros. We walked toward the small grocery store in the middle of the block, but before we got fifty yards, some of the yokels started smiling and pointing us out to one another. Pretty soon, a fair-sized crowd had gathered. Some of them were standing by a kiosk plastered with small posters, looking from the kiosk to us and back again.

“Come, compadres. Let’s see what’s so interesting about that kiosk.” We ambled over, as nonchalantly as possible, and when we got close enough to see what was going on, Felipe grabbed my elbow, almost crushing the joint.

“Don’t do that!”

“Look at that bill, comandante! It’s a wanted poster, and the three guys in the picture look just like us!”

I perused the bill, and smiled. “Felipe, you are an idiot. That’s not a wanted poster; it’s an advertisement for a performance by The Three Brothers, a trio of singers from La Paz who will be appearing here in the plaza tonight. They must be considerably down on their luck if they have to go this far out in the sticks to get a gig.”

At that moment, the crowd started to split in order to permit the passage of a wizened little man who was obviously some local dignitary (he was wearing shoes, at any rate). What riveted my attention, however, was his escort: two policemen, one on either side, right hands resting on the holsters of their side arms. If this was going to be a confrontation, we were in bad shape; Julio had brought his pistol for purposes of intimidation, but he had left the clip back at camp because we were so short on ammunition.

I turned to my men and said, “Good news, compadres! It is quite possible that we are about to be accorded the greatest privilege ever granted by fate to a revolutionary: martyrdom for the cause!”

To my unutterable disgust, Felipe and Julio were clearly giving signs of aspiring to die peacefully in their beds at a ripe old age, surrounded by their weeping loved ones. Their eyes were darting this way and that, looking for a side street, an alley, or just a plain hole in the ground into which they might dive in order to save their miserable hides.

“Cowards!”, I sneered. “I will show you how a revolutionary dies.” But to my surprise, the little old man smiled broadly and gave me an abrazo. “Welcome, welcome! I am Alfredo de la Bamba, Mayor of Suciedad. It is an honor to have the Three Brothers performing in our humble town! But we weren’t expecting you until this evening.”

“Oh. Yes. Heh. Well, our car broke down some way out of town and we, er, walked in.”

He clucked sympathetically. “We’ll get your car sorted out presently. But first, won’t you join me for some refreshments?”

Fortunately, his honor lived nearby. He dismissed his escort (to the visible relief of Felipe and Julio) and ushered us into the official residence, an unprepossessing home that looked rather like a large brick pump house. He proceeded to ply us with numerous cups of particularly vile tea, an excruciatingly boring history of the town of Suciedad, and a hilariously uninformed lecture on the threat of communism in Bolivia. I smiled and nodded; if he didn’t succeed in provoking one of his constituents into shooting him out of sheer exasperation with his stupidity, he would be an early candidate for execution once I had established the Bolivian soviet.

After a stultifyingly tedious half hour, I rose and told our host that we were eager to retire to the hotel and rest before the big concert tonight. Thanking him for the tea and for his diverting conversation, my men and I left the house and walked quickly in the direction of the general store.

“All right. Let’s make sure we’ve got the plan straight. We go in, I order some supplies, pay the clerk, and then we leave without further ceremony. We pack the stuff on the burros and skedaddle back to camp. Julio, don’t pull that pistol unless you absolutely have to.”

We entered the cool, dark little shop, and I approached the counter, behind which an enormously fat man sat on a stool, idly swatting flies.

“Good morning, sir. I would like to buy some food. We need beans, coffee, salt, tinned beef and a few other things. Perhaps . . .”

I was interrupted by a deranged, shrieking voice, calling out patriotic slogans: “This land is free, free at last . . .die before we would live as slaves!” Julio practically jumped out of his poncho, and – imbecile that he is – pulled out his pistol, swinging it around in a circle looking for the source of the voice.

“This land is free, free at last! *Squawk!* Pepito want a cracker!”

I groaned. It was an infernal parrot, sitting in a rusty cage atop a barrel, shouting out snatches of lyrics from the Bolivian national anthem. The proprietor, seeing Julio’s gun, shouted, “Marta! Thieves!” Seconds later, a squat, but powerfully built woman came from behind a curtain separating the shop from their living quarters. She was followed by two tall, well-muscled young men. The family, no doubt.

It was a Bolivian stand-off: Julio stood there with his gun, pointing it at the proprietor and his people; the proprietor – or rather, his wife and their two sons – inched menacingly in our direction. The parrot squawked again – “Sweet hymns of peace and unity! *Whistle!*” This proved to be too much for the jumpy Julio, who instinctively pulled the trigger. The small shop was filled with the sound of a deafening click!*. I rolled my eyes heavenward (or rather, in the direction of where superstitious religious people imagine heaven to be). I was about to offer an explanation, when Doña Marta and her sons each grabbed a broom and began beating us with petit capitalist savagery, cheered on by their still sedentary paterfamilias. We withdrew in what I am afraid I have to admit was considerable disorder, although I saw from the corner of my eye that Felipe at least managed to grab a box of something as we ran out of the shop. We hightailed it to our burros – Jesús, of course, had abandoned his post and in all likelihood was down at the police station informing on us. Felipe and Julio ran past the burros and just kept going. “Wait!”, I cried. “What about the burros?” Julio called out: “We’re not going to be slowed down dragging any burros along behind us!” I saw the wisdom of this view, and was soon pouring it on, myself, the screeching of that damned parrot still ringing in my ears: “ . . . keep the lofty name of our country in glorious splendor . . .*Rawk!* . . . Have a cookie, Pepito! *Whistle!* . . .”

We stumbled into our camp and fell to the ground gasping. After we had had a chance to catch our breath, I asked Felipe what was in the box he had grabbed on the way out of the store. He opened it, and swore. “Maldito sea! It’s parrot food! Well . . .” He picked up a handful and popped it in his mouth. “Polly want a revolution? Squawk!” He and Julio began laughing. Finally, I joined in the laughter, myself (not that I was actually amused by their joke; to the contrary, I was mortally offended by their jest at my expense, not to mention by their feckless lack of adherence to revolutionary discipline. But they had moved themselves a few places higher on the list of candidates for the next purge – and I found that to be very funny indeed).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Redlining on the Gaffe-O-Meter

Senator Barak Obama recently created a flap when he impatiently addressed a persistent woman reporter as “sweetie”. This is not the first time that the Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate has used a condescending epithet in talking to women reporters, but you won’t hear about it in the mainstream media.

Fortunately, the Press Association Covering Obama has been collecting these gaffes and is able to present other terms Senator Obama has used in addressing women (both reporters and questioners in the audience). They include:

1) Toots;

2) Baby doll;

3) Little girl;


4) You dimpled blob of quivering cellulite.

Senator Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, moved quickly to try and capitalize on these heretofore unpublicized gaffes at a major press conference at Columbia University, but substantially undermined her strategy by unaccountably departing from her prepared comments and imitating the calls of various New York waterfowl. Although this episode led to considerable consternation among Senator Clinton’s campaign staff, several ornithologists in the audience said afterwards that she gave a very creditable imitation of the bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), the surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), and the red-throated loon (Gavia stellata). The Obama camp, however, was quick to criticize her greater scaup (Aythya manila), intimating that the extent of her knowledge of bird calls was more apparent than real, “just like her knowledge of foreign policy.”

Che’s Bolivian Diary: The Lost Episodes (Part I)

[Ed. Note: The incomplete entries published below as Part I of Che Guevara’s diary were from scraps of paper found in the canvas sack that I acquired not long ago, the provenance of which I have already described in the previous post . Although undated, it is my opinion that they were written fairly early in the Bolivian campaign, probably between February and April of 1967]

Tramping down a jungle pig path today. Got lost. Stumbled across a peasant carrying firewood, asked him way to nearest village. The fellow seemed to only speak some kind of archaic Indian lingo. Probably a police informant (these rural folk usually are); had him shot.

* * *

Found village, reconnoitered. Everybody gone. Killed a couple of chickens. That damned incompetent, Felipe, left the salt and my personal bottle of Fidel’s Flaming Marxist Hot Sauce at the last camp site. Ordered him shot; countermanded order when apprised by Julio that two of our ammunition boxes were filled with cigars instead of ammo, and that we were running low on bullets as a result of our liberation efforts.

* * *

Read Neruda’s poem, “Fleas Interest Me So Much”. In this godforsaken hamlet I could certainly relate to these lines: “let them gallop on my skin,
divulge their emotions,
amuse themselves with my blood,
but someone should introduce them to me.
I want to know them closely,
I want to know what to rely on.”

Ah, that Neruda! What genius! He makes Shakespeare sound like Ogden Nash.

* * *

Smoked one of the cigars from the ammunition box; friggin’ White Owls, for cryin’ out loud! Where did these cheap American heaters come from? Probably a CIA plot; those Kennedy’s will stop at nothing. Forced Felipe to smoke a dozen; turned green. Made up for not being able to shoot him.

* * *

Exporting revolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Fidel said, “Just turn up in any South American country, Che; you’ll have an army overnight.” And he’s right; I do have an army – of lice. This goatee’s got to go. Oh, and of course, I had another asthma attack.

Read another of Neruda’s poems. Perplexed by this line: “Deserted like the dwarves at dawn. It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!” I was wondering how dwarves entered into this, when I noticed a blot on the page. Tomato sauce. Scraped it off and discovered that it’s “wharves”, not “dwarves”. Duh!

* * *

Reviewed strategy for fomenting revolution in Bolivia and went over it with my men.

Item #1: “Survival and adaptation to conditions of guerilla life.”

Felipe laughed, and Julio looked down at the ground, just shaking his head. I asked what’s so funny. Julio said, “That ‘survival’ part, comandante. I mean, look around: we’re lost in the jungle, the peasants in some of these villages would kill us just for our boots, and we’re low on ammo. We got maybe fifty guys – half of ‘em pro-Soviet Bolivian communists who spend most of their time trying to figure out how to exterminate the pro-Chinese half, and vice versa – and the Bolivian army trying to kill both sides off. Man, we’re going to spend all our time just working on that first item, and we’ll be damned lucky if we can pull it off.”

I told him that he was lacking in revolutionary zeal, but that as soon as we attracted a following, we would score some victories and he would see his confidence restored. I quickly moved on to the second item.

“Item #2: Erosion of enemy strength in the area marked out by the guerilla group for its own territory”

Felipe – perhaps still holding a grudge for being forced to smoke all those cheap American cheroots – spoke up with marked hostility. “Che, have you ever seen a map of Bolivia? This place is big, man! How we gonna erode enemy strength in a place where they outnumber us about a bazillion to one?” I was getting angry, now. Felipe was definitely beginning to unmask himself as a sunshine communist, completely devoid of that old school spirit and a can-do attitude. But I had an unanswerable rejoinder: “The Marxist state is inevitable.” And sure enough, he didn’t have an answer; just sat there shaking his head. I know it isn’t very egalitarian of me, but I confess that I do enjoy crushing dissent with my superior logic – not as much as crushing it with a firing squad, but almost.

* * *

I’ve had the men studying Quechua, the local Indian language, for the last few weeks, so that we can “blend in” with the locals. I decided to impress them by trying it out on a village elder. He didn’t understand a word I said, thereby unmasking himself as a spy. Had him shot. Unfortunately, found out later that in this part of Bolivia the natives don’t speak Quechua, but Guaraní. Well, he should have said something.

* * *

One of the Bolivian comrades came running into camp to report that he had found a coca farm and cocaine production plant a few miles away. I decided that this was a good opportunity to replenish our supplies of ammo, so I decided to lead a raid on the farm. Tomorrow morning, these running dogs of capitalism will face Marxist justice!

* * *

Well, that didn’t work. The narcotraficantes were better armed than we were. We had three killed, three wounded, and six desertions (I have sentenced them to death in absentia).

* * *

Lice really becoming a problem; I was convinced the facial hair had to go. When I asked if anyone wanted to shave me, every hand went up. I was greatly touched by this display of loyalty. Decided I must not show weakness, so will put up with lice for now in order to preserve charismatic goatee.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Interest to Historians

The diary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s revolutionary activities in Bolivia has been available for many years now; however, there were a number of fragments from the diary that were only recently discovered and identified, and which have come into my possession. It might be of interest to readers to learn something of the history of these documents.

When Che was finally captured by the Bolivian army and executed, his minor personal belongings were parceled out among the burial detail. Private Jaime Zuazo, the newest member of the unit, and a figure of fun among the veterans – a sort of Bolivian Sad Sack – was fobbed off with a small, dirty canvas pouch which appeared to be filled with old issues of Granma, the Cuban newspaper (employed by Che and his guerillas primarily as toilet paper during the Bolivian campaign). Private Zuazo was not particularly thrilled with his prize, for he had seen his fellows make off with fountain pens, spare berets and a stag-horn cigar-clipper. But it was better than nothing, so when he was granted leave, he returned home to his small village and gave the pouch to his wife, Maria. Maria, who specialized in manufacturing native crafts for sale to the tourist trade, sewed sequins onto the outside of the bag, using traditional Indian designs and enhancing them with her own artistic flights of fancy. She included the bag in her inventory of goods which she offered for sale in the arts and crafts market, held every Saturday in the plaza of a near-by town, and quickly sold it as a purse to an elderly American woman, Mrs. Elvira Noggle, who was traveling in Bolivia with a tourist group. Mrs. Noggle went back home to Greenville, North Carolina and hung the bag on her wall as a decoration, and when she died some ten years later, her children sold off her possessions, including the bag, at a yard sale. The bag was acquired by a neighbor, Mr. Roy Smoot, who, having just remembered that it was his 20th wedding anniversary, bought the bag and pawned the thing off on his wife as a gift. The bag wound up being included in his share of the property settlement shortly after their divorce six months later, and he sold it at a flea market. Like the Maltese Falcon, the bag continued to pass from hand to hand over the years, its owners unaware of the treasure it contained in a hidden, zippered compartment, since no one had ever actually used the bag qua purse (except once, briefly, when Mrs. Smoot hit her husband over the head with it).

I eventually picked up the bag, myself; quite literally so, having seen it discarded by Goodwill employees who were loading items from a drop-off box into their truck, and who had apparently found the thing to be too worthless even for a thrift shop. On a whim, I scooped the bag up, took it home, and poked about inside of it. The old Granmá newspapers were yellow and brittle with age, and I disposed of them immediately. At the bottom of the pouch, however, I ultimately discovered a zipper beneath a long flap of cloth. The zipper had become rusty, but a liberal application of WD-40 fixed the problem and I finally got it open. In a shallow compartment, I found a few torn scraps of lined notebook paper, along with several complete sheets, rolled up and squashed flat. I gently opened them up and spread them out on a table. They were covered in a small, cramped, cursive script, and they were written in Spanish. From the context, it became clear that these were diary entries that had been made by Che during the ill-fated Bolivian campaign. I was somewhat baffled, at first, as to why these particular entries would have been separated from the rest of the diary; however, even a cursory glance at the contents is sufficient to demonstrate the likelihood that Che was probably intending to suppress or eventually destroy them – for reasons that will be obvious to the attentive reader.

It is my pleasure to present to you, for the first time outside of the initial peer review conducted at the Blair Academy in Australia, my translation into English of: Che’s Bolivian Diary – the Lost Episodes (to be continued).

Behind Enemy Lines in Occupied Northern Virginia

Here at the Paco secret command post, we always fly our flag proudly, and never with greater pride than on Memorial Day. God bless our troops.

Although I live ten miles from Washington, and no closer to the Beltway than three miles as the crow flies, I was awakened yesterday morning by Rolling Thunder. There's something about the throaty roar of Hogs en masse that gives me a tingle down my spine (like the national anthem, or bagpipes).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Election Year Roundup

At least, that's what it looks like it needs, to me.

Meeting Called to Order

I entered the conference room at the community center and strode to the podium. The soft murmur of separate conversations could be heard, like the buzzing of particularly circumspect bees. I looked out over the audience, and counted heads; it looked like most everyone was there.

Sitting in the shadows near an air shaft below a “No Smoking” sign was a well-dressed man with a fedora pulled down low and a lit cigarette dangling defiantly from his lower lip – a somewhat wolfish-looking, but not unhandsome fellow, whose dark eyes glinted with amused skepticism. Next to him sat a blond who might have posed for Alberto Vargas – she was wearing a lilac-colored summer dress, one exquisite, tanned pin thrown casually over the other, a stiletto-heeled shoe dangling enticingly from the toes of a slender, elegant foot; long, golden hair spilled out from underneath a broad-brimmed straw hat, like wheat from an overturned bushel basket; a locket depended from a delicate silver chain around her neck, poised an inch or two above an entrancing décolletage, gently rising and falling with her every breath.

Sitting front-row, center, was a silver-haired executive, chomping on the cold butt of an extinguished cigar, trying futilely to make himself comfortable in a folding chair (so vastly inferior to the overstuffed leather wing chair reserved for him in the board room on the top floor of Paco Tower). Off to the left, perched on the edge of his seat, twirling a battered straw hat in his hands, was a middle-aged farmer from Minnesota. He had a soup-strainer mustache, a prominent beak, and thinning hair, and was attired in overalls and hob-nailed boots. He had put on an old salt-and-pepper jacket in a display of respect for the dignity of the proceedings, and was softly humming a Norwegian folk tune to himself.

Toward the back, a tall, lanky cowboy, with smiling blue eyes, was showing a rope trick to a short, rather plump, vaguely academic-looking man in a white lab coat, who studied the cowpuncher’s efforts with goggle-eyes through an antiquated pair of pince-nez. And coming in late was a troop of “good ol’ boys” from back in the hills of North Carolina, guffawin’ and chawin’, distinguished primarily by the emblems on their baseball caps, which ranged from the logo for “Red Man” chewing tobacco to the famous “#3” of the late, great NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt.

Sundry other familiar characters squirmed in their chairs, but I was suddenly startled by a movement over by the side door. I remembered having seen a large, shadowy object there, but had thought it was a baby grand piano; as it rose to stretch its limbs, the piano took on the aspect of a gorilla with an overactive thyroid gland, which I finally recognized as my bookie (named, naturally enough, “Tiny”).

I cleared my throat and opened the meeting. “Thank you all for coming here, tonight. I know you all have other things to do, but we have a crisis on our hands, and I wanted to get everybody together to discuss our options. Now…” I was interrupted by a loud, rasping noise that sounded like a woman filing her nails. I turned to the lady in lilac: “Sheila, can you stop doing your nails, please? It’s a little distracting.” Sheila, eyes rounding in innocent surprise, held up both hands to indicate that they were empty. The rasping noise began again. I scanned the audience and spotted Ole, vigorously rubbing the front of his overalls with a faded red bandana.

“Excuse me, Ole, but what are you doing?”

Ole, mortified to be the center of attention, and glancing around bashfully, blurted out, “Sorry, Meester Paco. But, by yimminy, I spilt some herring sauce on my überalls and de shtuff von’t come out.”

The Titan of Industry turned in his chair to face Ole. “You know, my company makes a stain remover that will take that right out.”

Ole, now frowning angrily, did an about face and lifted his jacket slightly, revealing a sizable hole in the seat of his overalls, through which could be glimpsed a very becoming pair of boxer shorts decorated with a print of reindeer frolicking in a forest of conifers. “I know; I tried yur product before. See? An’ de varranty vas no gewd a’tall!”

The silver-haired executive scowled. “Whaddaya mean the warranty was no good? ‘Money cheerfully returned if not satisfied’. We stand by that!”

“Ja, but it also said dat I had to return de product to de place of manufacture, and I don’t tink dere really iss such a place as Christiansburg, Saudi Arabia.”

“Well, the stuff got the stain out, didn’t it?”

I could see that this meeting was rapidly getting out of control. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!” Ole, I’ll kick in with a new pair of overalls. Now, let’s get on with the business at hand.”

“As you all know, Tim Blair has shut down his independent blog and moved to the Daily Telegraph’s site. (A few subdued “boos”). I’m sure we all wish Tim well, but, as a practical matter, we’re going to have to find a new venue for our skits and stories. So, I’ve called you all here to discuss an idea I’ve been mulling over: I’m thinking of starting a blog.”

A murmur of approval swept the audience, punctuated by the odd rebel yell and “hell, yeah!” from the Carolina contingent.

“This is a fairly substantial undertaking for all of us, but I believe that, working together, we can pull it off. Ah, I think I see a hand out there. Yes, Detective Paco?”

“I don’t think it’s any secret that I pulled more than my fair share of the weight over at Tim’s. What about the rest of these mugs? Are they gonna pitch in, regular-like, or just drop by with some lame new invention from time to time (giving a ferocious stare to the executive), or do a brief walk-on as Mr. Science (throws a thumb in the direction of the plump chap in the white lab coat)?

The audience erupted in incensed accusations and counter-accusations. The executive – determined to demonstrate that his inventions were anything but lame – stomped over to Detective Paco and pulled out a combination nose-hair trimmer and cigarette lighter, which, due to some unexpected glitch in the mechanism, shredded the detective’s cigarette and set his own shirtsleeve on fire. A short, stout older woman, wearing a hat somewhat suggestive of a robin’s nest in a mimosa tree, proceeded, with lowering brow and sturdy cane, to wade into the crowd, laying waste indiscriminately (yes, through some gross oversight, Sheila’s mother had, indeed, been invited to the meeting). The Professor, having borrowed the Paco Kid’s lasso for the purpose of practicing a few tricks, accidentally threw a loop around Tiny’s neck; Tiny, who once dreamed of perishing on the gallows (not an entirely unlikely scenario given some of his previous – and, for that matter, current – associations), turned an angry shade of crimson, grabbed the rope, and yanked the Professor half-way across the room, the latter leaving a trail of slide rules, pocket protectors and mechanical pencils in his wake. The Carolinians simply whooped it up, en masse, cheering all sides of the fray with little or no particular preference as to the individual combatants. Sheila demurely powdered her nose.

The fracas ended abruptly as a pistol shot got everyone’s attention. The Paco Kid blew the smoke off the end of the gun barrel, twirled his Colt Navy twice, and deftly spun it into his holster. He gave a wide smile, and said, “You can get on with your speech, now, Mr. Paco.”

“Thanks, Kid. If everyone will please return to their seats, I’d be greatly obliged. As I was saying, I’m going to start a blog, and there will be important roles and responsibilities for each of you. Now, for the first few posts, I was thinking of doing some reruns” (a groan arose from the audience). Hey, just to let folks know who you are, ok? And then maybe one or two topical items of interest. We’ll see how it goes.”

I was just getting ready to gavel the meeting to a close when the main door to the conference room opened, and a man in uniform walked slowly down the aisle. For a brief moment, I was baffled as to his identity, but my perplexity quickly changed to joy.

“Wronwright! What are you doing here? The only people I invited were my fictional characters. But you’re more than welcome, of course.”

He stopped in front of the podium. “You’ve used me so frequently in your stories I might as well be fictional.”

“And…you’re in uniform! A regular security guard uniform!”

“How do you like it?”

“I have to admit, I kinda miss the epaulettes and the riding crop, but it looks fine, fine.”

“Well, with Karl on sabbatical, and Tim shutting down the old place, and tax season over, I was at loose ends, so I parlayed my experience with Detective Paco into a job with a private security company. In fact, I was assigned to watch this community center tonight.”

“Hey, that’s great!”

“Yeah, it’s not a bad gig. Oh, by the way: you’re all under arrest.”

“Haw, haw! That’s m’boy! Always kidding.”

“I’m not kidding. You and your merry band are guilty of several infractions of the law: for example, breaking and entering.”

“What are you talking about? I paid the fifty-dollar fee to rent the room. Or rather, I gave the money to Tiny, and he…”

I noticed, with no little consternation, that Tiny was fingering his collar and grinning sheepishly.

“Tiny, what did you do with the fifty bucks I paid you to rent this room?”

“Well, da ting is, boss, I know you’re always lookin’ for a sure ting, so I put da money down on Big Brown to win de Derby – which he did. I got your dough right here; I was gonna surprise you wid it after de meetin’.”

“So how did we get the room?”

“I picked de lock.”

Wronwright smirked, put his thumbs in his gun belt, and swaggered before the audience, announcing his charges in a voice reminiscent of the late Barney Fife in his prime. “All right, listen up, people! I am placing you under arrest for committing the following crimes: breaking and entering, trespassing, unauthorized use of public property”…(he happened to see Detective Paco lighting a fresh coffin nail)…”smoking in a non-smoking area”…

Sheila’s mother brandished her cane. “You’ll never take me alive, flatfoot!”

“Threatening an officer…”

I had an idea. “Pssst! Wronwright, come here a minute. Detective Paco, will you step up to the podium, please?”

Detective Paco walked to the front of the room, and the three of us had a pow-wow.

“Listen, Wronwright, you’re wasted on a night watchman job like this. How would you like to work with Detective Paco again?”

Detective Paco choked on his cigarette. “Hey, wait a minute!”

I spelled it out for him. “Look, if you get arrested, you might lose your license, right?”

“Well, yeah, I suppose so, but …”

“And Wronwright’s been helpful to you on a number of cases, hasn’t he?”

“If you insist on stretching a point like it was saltwater taffy…”

“Wronwright, don’t you miss the excitement of real crime-fighting? The thrill of the chase?”

Wronwright’s eyes gleamed. “Do I get to wear my custom-made uniform?”

Detective Paco glared at him. “Oh, all right! But you only get to wear that costume on cases where I find myself in need of a Bolivian admiral.”

Wronwright adopted a superior air. “It’s a Guatemalan field marshal’s uniform, if you please. Ok, you’ve got a deal.” He looked over his shoulder and hollered at the audience. “All right, you all can go; I’m letting you off with a warning, this time. But watch it!”

I now officially closed the meeting. “Folks, that’s a wrap for today. Report for work first thing tomorrow.”