Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Random Ten

Here we are another friday another ten off the random button.

Keep a Cool Head - - - Desmond Dekker
Raspberry Beret - - - Prince
Nobody Else - - - Los Lonely Boys
The Beautiful Side of Somewhere - - - The Wallflowers
You Are My Sunshine - - - Johnny Cash
My Best Was Never Good Enough - - - Bruce Springsteen
Everything's Cool - - - John Prine
Tomorrow is a Long Time - - - Bob Dylan
Cakewalk - - - Taj Mahal
Mean Ol' Frisco - - - Snooks Eaglin


Spanish Johnny - - - David Bromberg

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reaction to Belgrade

When the news of the attack on the American Embassy in Belgrade broke I almost instantly got a phone call from an old comrade. He remembered that back in '72 I had sent him a telegram from Beruit regarding an operation in the then Yugoslavia that was in the works. Here is the text of the telegram. Remember, this was sent from Beruit.




* old school telegram speak for break transmission signifying the end of the message.

He said he still laughs at the thought of someone who would rather stay in Beruit. Then he remembers what went down with his team in Belgrade and Skopje and realizes that I was the one with good sense on that subject. At least I was able to get decent cups of coffee and great hash in Beruit. That and the French reporter. . .


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Because One Good Pablo Deserves Another

Musing on the resignation of Fidel Castro, the lyrical litbrit cited a gorgeous poem by Pablo Neruda. "The Dictators." It's a roiling and steamy bit of work. Like most of Neruda. The thing about Neruda that has always intruiged me is how well he translates. Often, with poets, the musicality or the flow of sound and beauty is lost when things are moved from one language to another. More than any other poet I read, Neruda has managed to defy this. I wish I knew how. Usually when I read a good translation of a poem I try to find it in the original language. Poetry, especially works like that. With Neruda I am often left wondering which language he was thinking and dreaming in when that particular poem sprung forth.

Here's one of my favorite Neruda's. Primero, en Espanol:


Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía
a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde
salió, de invierno o río.
No sé cómo ni cuándo,
no, no eran voces, no eran
palabras, ni silencio,
pero desde una calle me llamaba,
desde las ramas de la noche,
de pronto entre los otros,
entre fuegos violentos
o regresando solo,
allí estaba sin rostro
y me tocaba.

Yo no sabía qué decir, mi boca
no sabía
mis ojos eran ciegos,
y algo golpeaba en mi alma,
fiebre o alas perdidas,
y me fui haciendo solo,
aquella quemadura,
y escribí la primera línea vaga,
vaga, sin cuerpo, pura
pura sabiduría
del que no sabe nada,
y vi de pronto
el cielo
y abierto,
plantaciones palpitantes,
la sombra perforada,
por flechas, fuego y flores,
la noche arrolladora, el universo.

Y yo, mínimo ser,
ebrio del gran vacío
a semejanza, a imagen
del misterio,
me sentí parte pura
del abismo,
rodé con las estrellas,
mi corazón se desató en el viento.

Here's the translation. Notice how well it still sings.


And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

That, my friends, is genius. Pure. Genius.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Cocteles Mariscos

One of the true pleasures of living nearer to the coast, and at the same time being close to Baja California is the wonderful things Mexican cooks do with the abundant seafood from the Pacific and the Gulf of California.

Cocteles are an institution around here. They are simple and straightforward. Bold flavors presented without apology.

Here's the one I made a couple of days ago.


1 pound cooked and shelled medium shrimp
1 Dungeness crab, cooked and cleaned (a bit more than 1/2 a pound of meat)
3 stalks of celery (remove the strings)
2 avocados
2 cucumbers
1 red bell pepper
1/2 gal V8 juice
1 cup clam juice
juice of 2 limes
Tapatio sauce

First off, the seafood used can be of any type. There are no hard and fast rules. Popular around here are clams, oysters, octopus, shrimp, and squid. The giant squid from the Sea of Cortez must be seen to be believed. They are some Jules Verne nightmares. I've even taken a small cookie cutter to the wings of stingrays with good success. (cook's note: fileted and cookiecuttered stingray wings make a very reasonable substitute for scallops and abalone)

Take the veggies, using any combination of color and texture that amuses you. Make sure that you seed the cucumbers, because the seeds are bitter and add no food value. Cut it all into small, bitesized pieces. Mix with the same sized chunks of the seafood and put into a large, non-reactive bowl. Put the juices over them, again, adjusting the proportions of the V8 and the clam juice to your taste. I like lots of clam juice, it's a good ocean flavor. Hose it down liberally with Tapatio (and no, there is no substitute for this brand of salsa picante, if you used anything else you'd be thrown out of Baja as an undesirable). Chill and serve in tall glasses with ice tea spoons. The proper companion is corn tortillas, warm and soft, or deep fried into chips. Using saltine crackers will identify you as a hopeless gringo.

These is a great warm afternoon appetizer. I heartily recommend it.