Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Did You Do to the Jai Alai Games!

The first time my husband and I went to the jai alai games was in the 1970’s when we visited my grandmother in Miami, Florida. The stadium was full and the fans yelled encouragement to the players in English and Spanish. The game was exciting but the pageantry and the atmosphere surrounding the games was half the fun. At the beginning of each match, the teams would come to the front of the court accompanied by Spanish music. As they waved their cestas (baskets), the crowd would cheer. A night at the jai alai games was an event to look forward to.

As my family moved further north, we went to the frontons in Palm Beach and then in Dania near Fort Lauderdale. The atmosphere was still exciting.

The game of jai alai originated in the Basque region of Spain and many of the players still have Basque origins. Jai alai is played on what looks like an elongated handball court. About eight singles or doubles compete to see who can score the points first. They have to throw the pelota (ball) against the back and their opponent has to catch it on one bounce or on the fly. There is betting on which single or double will win. Each match lasts about 20 minutes. There are usually about 15 matches in an evening but one can come or go any time during the evening.

After years away from Florida, I was excited to go back to the jai alai games. We went to Dania, the closest fronton to where we were staying. The game is the same, but the pageantry and atmosphere are gone. Instead of being in a whole stadium, jai alai is now relegated to a small back room of a casino. Instead of a whole crowd being there to cheer, now there are only a few rows of people craning their necks to watch the matches. To add insult to injury, we had to plod through the casino to get to the jai alai room. What a disappointment!

jai alai fronton in Dania, Florida

parade at the beginning of the match

Apparently, jai alai has also been moved to a casino in Miami. I guess most people prefer the slot machines with their quick results. Maybe that’s collateral damage from all the time people spend playing video games. Click. Click. Click. I hope jai alai doesn’t go the way print newspapers seem to be going.

My new goal is to go to the Basque country- the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain and France- and see the jai alai games there. I think it will be really exciting.

                                          playing jai alai in the Basque country

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Climbing Florida's Mountains

To my surprise, we’ve found ourselves in South Florida for the past few winters. I say surprised because my parents lived there for 30 years. Before my parents moved there from New York, my grandparents and several other relatives lived there. Friends and colleagues would tell me about trips that they took to Mexico and the Caribbean Islands and I’d feel jealous that I was obligated to go to Florida to visit family instead.

When my mother became too fragile to live by herself in Florida, she moved to Boston to be near my sister. Thus, we were free to travel to any exotic place we wished. We were blessed to visit Costa Rica, Guatemala, and parts of South America. Those trips were fascinating and enjoyable. Nevertheless, I was shocked to find myself missing Florida anyway.

After a couple of months of enduring a Chicago winter each year, I find that I’m thrilled to go to Florida. As I told people on our trip to Guatemala, “We’re from Chicago. In February, I love anyplace with warm weather.” I always say that if the only sight I see in Florida is the Florida sunshine, I’ll be very happy. This year we were fortunate to have had great weather i.e. weather hot enough to go swimming and to spend a lot of time in the pool and at the beach.

Yes, Florida has sunshine, but it also has sunsets. They serve as a substitute for the mountains in this very flat state. This trip we saw some awesome sunsets.

sunset in Hollywood Beach, Florida

We’ve spent a lot of time in Hollywood Beach north of Miami and just south of Fort Lauderdale. This area is unique with its meld of pricey high rises on the beach and its art deco architecture from the 1920’s. On the beach, the Broadwalk stands out as a place to stroll along passing many restaurants, stores, and of course, a great variety of other people both locals and other vacationers while viewing the beach at the same time.
on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

In town, the Young Circle and the downtown near it is being developed as an arts center. Cinema Paradiso, an indie movie theatre with 72 seats, was opened in 2013. The third Saturday of each month an art walk is held where artists open their studios to the public and musicians serenade the crowds outside of them. There are still only a few artists but the city is developing affordable housing with studios for artists to live in. Hopefully, as the area attracts more artists, this artwalk will grow.
Cinema Paradiso in downtown Hollywood Beach

on the Artwalk in Hollywood Beach

In recent years, there has been some gentrification in Hollywood Beach. When we came back this year, for example, a huge Margaritaville was added blocking many funky little 1920’s era motels from view. Locals hope that a balance can be struck that will allow locals who aren’t wealthy to stay there. Alas, this is an issue everywhere in the United States. I hope that the people of Hollywood Beach area can maintain its character allowing people of all income levels to enjoy it. My suggestion is that you see it soon just in case the character of it is lost in future years. We had a wonderful time there.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Traveling to America's Polar Regions

As has been said, America has become dangerously polarized. Many of us can’t talk to people who hold opposing political viewpoints. I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of that myself, but I felt that I was a step ahead of some of my Facebook friends when I saw this posting:

With just one click, you can find out which of your Facebook friends like Trump – and unfriend them.

I wondered why people would want to spy on their friends. After all, why stoop to Trump’s level? By now, we’ve all heard the stories of people quietly opposing his views being forcibly ejected from his rallies. His threats against anyone who opposes him are reported fully in all the media.

Then I wondered why they’d need to. I have a few Facebook friends who support Trump, but I hardly need to sign up for apps to find out which of my friends feel that way. They are posting pro Trump things on Facebook all the time. Then I wondered if most people only have friends who agree with them about everything. If we can’t even talk to our friends, how can we expect to have a dialog? How can we begin to solve all of America’s problems if we can’t even talk to each other?

In Better Off Without ‘Em, Chuck Thompson suggests that the North and South are so culturally and politically apart, it would be easier for both of us if we let the South secede. He presents his arguments with humor and anecdotes. At the end of his book, however, he gets serious and admits that the likelihood of this happening is remote at best. 

Since we’re all forced to be one country, instead of unfriending each other, we’d be better off trying to listen to each other and find out where we’re all coming from. The dichotomies aren’t only between the North and South, but are also between the socially conservative and those who are more open-minded, between upper classes and people who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, between racial and ethnic groups. It will be hard to talk about issues we’ve all been yelling about but in the end, it may be worth it. So if anyone reading this is pro Trump, I invite you to tell me why. Maybe you have a good reason, but I can’t see it for the life of me. Anyone who’s definitely for any other candidate, you’re invited to put your 2cents in also. I won’t edit what anyone says unless swear words, pornography, or personal insults are used. We’re poles apart and we need to start talking now before it’s too late.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

An "Anthropologist on Mars" Views Super Tuesday's Returns

The Scream by Edvard Munch. Yes, I feel like screaming too. Yikes!
As you all know, Temple Grandin, who is autistic, is the famous animal husbandry expert. She has not only innovated many changes in her field, but has also been a spokesperson for autism. She’s written several books about autism that translate the autistic experience to those of us who aren’t autistic.

Temple Grandin has likened her experience of the world of emotion and human relationships to feeling like an “Anthropologist on Mars.” I have to empathize with Ms. Grandin because sometimes I feel like an “Anthropologist on Mars” myself. Yesterday watching the Super Tuesday primary election returns coming in was a great example.

I often say that I’m technologically challenged. I don’t have a Smart Phone and don’t know how to text. As a matter of fact, I had to enlist the assistance of a computer savvy friend to start this blog. At this point, Temple Grandin is probably better equipped than I am to understand current communication methods and probably understands current campaign styles better than I do.

Candidates have twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and give us their views in 140 characters. People watch for gotcha moments on television and a lot of people have been deciding how to vote on that basis.

I watched the Republican debates aghast to see the candidates explaining their positions on complicated issues in the minute or two they each had allotted to them. In subsequent debates, this descended into mutual name-calling. It seems that Americans are picking their candidate the way they pick American Idol or a Survivor winner. It’s no wonder Donald Trump is shaping up as the front runner. He is very adept at tapping into voters’ anger in two-minute sound bites. I wonder how Pres. Lincoln would have done in this format. After all, he was a Republican, too.

Pretty soon I have to vote in the Illinois Democratic Primary. Will it be Hillary or will I feel the Bern? Do Bernie Sanders’ supporters like him because he reminds them of their grandfathers and makes them feel cared for or have they suddenly developed class-consciousness and become Socialists? Will enough Americans be able to get past their customary revulsion to the word Socialist to vote for a Socialist Jew from New York for him to win the election? Or will Hillary be able to adapt to the world of sound bites and social media in time to be a strong candidate? Or are enough Americans going to be so horrified by Trump’s bullying Nazi tactics to vote for anyone opposing him? Will my vote matter? I don’t know, but I’m joining Temple Grandin as an Anthropologist on Mars. Who knows? Maybe I’ll move there if Donald Trump becomes President.

If anyone has any insight to the current American mood, please clue me in. I’m looking forward to hearing your opinion. You don’t have to limit yourself to 140 characters either.