Musings


“Esta noche es Noche Buena,
vamos al monte hermanito.
A buscar un arbolito
porque la noche es serena.”

That’s the first Christmas song I ever learned. My mother sung me to sleep with it longer ago than either one of us care to admit.

“Tonight is Christmas Eve,
let’s go to the woods little brother.
To go find a little tree
because the night is serene.”

There is an unbroken thread running through my life, stretched out in a thin line running back to the very beginning of my consciousness that reminds me of who I am and what I believe in. It anchors my future by reminding me of the past with the strength of family and tradition.

I have two brothers, one born there as I was, and one born here. They fell asleep to that song as well. I have been thinking about that a lot lately.

In the country where I was born, La Noche Buena is the most significant of our cultural traditions. It is a night for family and a celebration to life; a night when we immerse ourselves in the waters of tradition in a baptism of love and togetherness, and the memories of a land existing only in the hearts of those who left, come alive and keep that tradition from fading even today.

Memories of a house on the side of a hill with old, wooden walls, grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins and nieces and nephews…all gathered together under one roof, creating the expected chaos a gathering of that proportion brings about. There were a lot of us then, as I seem to recall, in those Noche Buenas of my boyhood days.

The women preparing the side dishes, the aroma of black beans and rice and garlic filled the air in the house, mingling with the laughter and the happy confusion of several loud conversations being carried simultaneously. There was yucca with tangy “mojo criollo”, fried plantains and sweet, ripe avocados sprinkled with olive oil. Most of all there was love.

We kids seemed to do nothing but get underfoot as we flew through the old house, engaged in a million make-believe games consisting mostly of running around making lots and lots of noise. Most of our games interrupted by a collective shout of “you kids go outside and play!” coming from the general area of the kitchen. We fled to the backyard and the men of the family.

They sat around an open pit where the traditional main course, a well-dressed and better seasoned young hog, sizzled over carefully watched glowing-red embers. The smell of the roasting meat hung in the air and was joined there by the aroma of fine cigars, hand-rolled from good Pinar Del Rio leaves. Loud, good-natured discussions of every theme imaginable carried the conversation, speckled with laughter and old jokes.

Christmas 1967 was the last one celebrated on the Island by my immediate family, there where few of us left there by then. There was no pig roasting over an open pit, no grandparents, few uncles and aunts, fewer kids. Hushed concern permeated our traditionally boisterous celebration as the end was in sight and our departure imminent. It was the last time I would spend Noche Buena in the old house on the side of a hill. The last time I would run my hands over the old wooden walls, the last time I would fly recklessly between the old orange trees in the backyard into my grandfather’s arms. It was to be our farewell to the country which gave us our identity, our good-bye to roots older than the oldest among us.

This year we will gather once again, as we always have, in our celebration of life and love. We will rejoice in the gifts showered on us by the Creator. We will renew the strength of the family and pay homage to all the members departed both here and there.

There will be much activity the kitchen as old, familiar smells and sounds will fill the house. There will be children, my children, playing games older than time itself with friends and cousins, being told to “run outside and play” from somewhere within that kitchen, a kitchen filled with grandmothers and aunts and mothers happily preparing the traditional fares. They will fly recklessly, happy and carefree, between citrus trees and jump into the open arms of grandfathers and fathers sitting beside an open pit, watching over the main course while smoking good cigars rolled from fine American leaves. There will be love and continuity.

And while we will miss those who have gone on before us, their presence will be felt in our hearts and their voices heard in the sound palm fronds make when the wind runs through them.

On this Noche Buena, this special night, we will once again give thanks to the land that gave us shelter from the storm of oppression and to the good Lord that saw us safely here. We will rejoice in the dreams of freedom that drove us to these shores and pay tribute to the American dream and to the people who welcomed us with open arms.

In hour darkest hour, on that Noche Buena in 1967, we looked to America to find hope. And like so many before us we found a wondrous, magnificent, generous Nation and peoples. We forged a home on fruitful soil and have grown strong; we preserve our traditions with great care and add them to the American Tapestry like so many before us. And we stand willing and able to fight for this, our home, for the Constitution and the everlasting ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers. We have indeed been blessed and we have much to be thankful for.

Last night, I looked at my children, and a tinge of sadness crossed my heart knowing that they are now too old to be sung to sleep with an old villancico, but maybe, just maybe, not too young to learn an old melody from their old man.

“Esta noche es Noche Buena,
vamos al monte hermanito.
A buscar un arbolito
porque la noche es serena.”

Jerry Jones is the reason for the Dallas Cowboys not having won a playoff game since 1996.

There…I’ve said it.

Sure, Wade Phillips is a mediocre Coach at best, and Jason Garret seems a bit overrated, and to quote ESPN “his stock is in a free fall”; Romo threw 45 times in the loss against the Ravens, and America’s Team (on paper anyway) gained 92 yards on the ground in the team’s last game in Texas Stadium. With legendary Cowboys like Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, and Bob Lilly in attendance, Saturday’s performance went way beyond embarrassing.

It’s Jones that’s been the constant in Dallas however, not Phillips, lover boy, or Tantrum Owens. It’s Jones that was calling the shots in 1996 (the last time the Cowboys won a post-season game), and Jones that’s there today, still calling the shots of what’s shaping up to be the twelfth year that the blue and silver will not make it into the playoffs.

Dallas was picked to win this year’s Superbowl before the team took their first snap of the season, everyone agreeing that the depth of talent in the team would cruise through the season, and right into Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. But Romo appears to be far better at penetrating leggy blond bombshells than tight coverage. T.O. is a loud mouth narcissist who has caused trouble in every team that he’s ever played for, and while possibly possessing the biggest heart in the Cowboys’ offense, Marion Barber is less player than his contract would have you believe.

These lone-star-wearing underachievers lack discipline, heart, passion, and team cohesiveness, all clear indicators of two massive problems within the Cowboys organization: poor coaching, and bad management that consistently hires bad coaches, or worse, hires GOOD coaches and then takes from them the ability to run the team effectively.

All these things can be fixed with the proper leadership, and that leadership MUST come from the top. But can they be fixed by next week, when the Cowboys travel to Philly and face an Eagles team fighting for their own playoff berth?

Jerry Jones is in a tough spot…his team needs to win championships in order to fill the seats of his new, $1.1 billion pro football Cathedral opening next year. Judging from the playoff drought of the past eleven years under the Cowboys’ current management, change in management is needed to bring the franchise back to its former glory, and Jerry Jones, the owner, needs to fire Jerry Jones, the General Manager, and that’s the 500-lb gorilla in the Cowboys board room.

Well Jerry, this long-time Cowboys fan wants you to fire yourself and find a real GM and a real coach for America’s Team, and until you do, I will not spend one tin dime on anything Cowboy related.

No t-shirts, no hats, not NFL Ticket from my cable provider, no Cowboys coffee mugs, boxer shorts, sleeping wear, antenna toppers, bumper stickers, bobbleheads, flags, team logo sneakers, Cowboys toothbrushes…nothing. I won’t even spend the gas to travel to a sports bar to watch games not broadcast by my local TV stations.

The ball’s on your court Jones.

Gentlemen…give that special woman in your life the gift of health, and show her that you truly care.

Give her a Wii Fit this Holiday season.

You will not regret it.

Edit…you may have to go to YouTube to view video.

The best thing about election night 2008, at least the best thing here in the Gold Coast of Florida, was the weather; it was one of those perfect cool and breezy nights when South Floridians turn off the central AC units, and open the windows.

That doesn’t happen very often, and we don’t keep those windows open throughout the night, lest we wake up surprised by a sudden cloudburst pouring in unannounced.

I didn’t really watch the returns past Ohio being called for Obama, I knew that the race was over at that point, but I wasn’t sleepy, and I wasn’t ready to close the windows and retire, so I kissed my better half goodnight with a promise that I wouldn’t “stay up all night”, and I dropped a DVD in the player…”El Cid”, with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.

It’s a great movie, and the closing scene, with a dead Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar charging the Moors while strapped atop his great war steed was magnificent and inspiring…and for some reason made me think of Fred Thompson, and whether he may have fared better than McCain against Obama.

But that’s a topic for a different day.

As much as I wished to miss the inevitable concession speech, and the white smoke issuing from Hyde Park, I wasn’t able to. Reality poured in through my open windows.

I live in suburbia, there’s no noises past 10:00 PM in my gated community…but there was noise in our street just after 11:00 PM on this night.

A neighbor, a sweet elderly lady living with her daughter and son in law, a black woman, stood on her back yard, a few houses away and shouted at the night sky…”Thank you sweet Jesus! We won! Thank you sweet Jesus.”

I had mixed emotions…there was no denying her pride, and I couldn’t fault her, after having lived through the humiliation of segregated water fountains, bathrooms, and “Whites Only” businesses, for feeling accomplishment and pride in the Obama election.

I however, saw something different in this election…I saw a nation more deeply divided than ever, a vote more impacted by the color of the candidate’s skin, than by the content of his character.

I must wonder now, now that the culmination of the struggle of Medgar Evers, martin Luther King, Jr. and others ends with a black man being elected as leader of the free world. What of the race pimps and problem profiteers?

When do we begin the process of shutting down the permissible racism of organizations like the Black Congressional Caucus?

Is there even a need for such an organization now?

The NAACP…National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

They have obviously achieved their goal…will they be closing down now?

Will the Reverend Jesse Jackson finally take to a pulpit, and do God’s work?

The National Urban League…Rainbow Push Coalition…The National Action Network…and the rest.

Do we end “Black” organizations today, just as we ended “White Only” practices decades ago?

America has forever overcome her racist past, will we now see black Americans leave race behind, and simply be “Americans”?

If that happens in my day, I will be the next neighbor shouting to the night sky from my backyard…”Thank You Sweet Jesus…we have ALL seen the light.”

The burden is on Black Americans now, to cast off their own racism, and the race pimps and opportunists once and for all.

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