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    Esther Blumenfeld  

    The purpose of this web site is to entertain.  My humor columns died along with the magazines where they were printed, although I cannot claim responsibility for their demise.  I still have something to say, and if I can bring a laugh or two to your day, my mission will be fulfilled.

    Everyone I know thinks he has a sense of humor.  Here is my unsolicited advice. If you try to be funny and no one laughs, don’t worry about it.  However, if you try to be funny and no one EVER laughs, you might have a little problem.

     

    Friday
    Jun012018

    CIENFUEGOS CUBA

    5/8/18: I’m not sure who named the tranquil seaside city, Cienfuegos, but I was told it was named after the guy who discovered the place. Who would name a kid, “100 Fires,” but maybe that was why he had to leave home.

    Cienfuegos is very different from Havana. On the southern coast, the French spirit of the city is very visible. It was originally founded by French settlers from Louisiana, and the neoclassical architecture is well preserved. Enough of that!  Time to get to the serious business of the tour, the Cienfuegos Tobacco Factory.

    I don’t know if there is something akin to a Tobacco Saint, but Cuban cigars are very revered. So, watching the production of the coveted cigar, at the Anastacio Cardenas Tobacco Factory, was a truly unique (as well as hot and humid) experience. I think the secret of tobacco is in the Cuban soil. We were introduced to the process including the  step by step intricate rolling of the wrapper, filler and binder as the leaves were wrapped.  By the way, a cigar leaf feels like silk. Now I don’t have to learn something new for at least another week.

    Of course, we were allowed time to browse the shops and rum and cigar stores before ending the tour. More colorful old cars up and down the streets.

    5/9/18:  Santiago De Cuba, Cuba

    No, I did it right. The first is the name of the City, and the last is still—Cuba—-the island only 90 miles away from Miami. Santiago De Cuba has a 6000 mile-high mountain range.  Did you know there are mountains in Cuba?  I did not! It is a city that has a fascinating history, including the famed San Juan Hill, a 17th-century fortress, where a decisive battle was won during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Americans, including Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and African-American Buffalo Soldiers helped the Cubans end Spanish rule of Cuba at this spot where the Spanish surrendered.

    The city has a rich heritage of music, art and literature, and many famous people have come from this place including Desi Arnez  (Lucille Ball’s Cuban husband). His name wasn’t mentioned in the brochure, because I guess the other musicians were more mentionable, but I didn’t recognize any of them, so I wrote my own history.  Emilio Bacardi Moreau is also buried there—the famous rum guy.

    More rum. More shopping, and a history tour in the plaza.  It was very hot and humid in the sun, so I slipped away from the group and entered an art museum. They asked me where I was from and I said, “America,” and, then, beaming they gave me the run of the place. Cubans really like Americans.  I think Teddy Roosevelt did that for us. I’m sure it was not Vice President, Nixon, who dismissed Castro when he came for a visit. Ike had gone golfing and left Castro to Nixon. He just didn’t like the guy, who had come to discuss relations with the U.S., and Nixon was sure he wouldn’t last more than a few months.  So Castro went to Russia….and the rest is history.

    But back to the museum.  I walked up 40 steps to the gallery. I think every place in Cuba has 40 steps, and after perusing the paintings, I realized that they all were done by Cuban artists.
    A lovely young attendant followed me, and, trying to be helpful, read to me from a lengthy plaque on the wall. Unfortunately, it was in Spanish, so I didn’t understand one word, but I thanked her and walked another 40 steps back to my sweaty tour.

    5/10/18: A day at sea.  Time to pack up. Sailing back to Miami.
    5/11/18:  Off to the Miami airport. Goodbye to Josh and Barbara. Another adventure with American Airlines. A four hour delay. Changing planes for the last flight out of Dallas. Changing gates five times, but I  made it!

    Home at last. Glad I went. One of the best adventures ever!—Until the next one.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    May252018

    CUBA HERE WE COME

    5/4/18:  We boarded our ship in time for lunch. Well, what did you expect? After getting settled into our cabins, we went through the life-jacket-life-boat drill, and I promised myself that I would certainly not abandon ship before dinner.

     Information slips were left in our cabins about our adventure in Cuba. It was suggested that  when ashore: “Don’t drink the water.” “Don’t put ice into your drinks.” “Exchange your money into CUCS (Cuban Money) at the pier.” And, “Take toilet paper with you wherever you go.”

    5/5/18: Havana here we come. We sailed into Havana and saw the Morro (wall) built by the Spaniards in 1589 to protect the city from buccaneers, pirates and tourists. We walked 40 steps down to the the pier, exchanged our money and boarded a modern, air-conditioned bus which had come from China.  Yes, there was a bathroom on the bus, and, Yes, there was no toilet paper. “Rock and Roll” took on a new meaning. We were treated to the “Ultimate Highlights of Havana,” and our guide spoke English beautifully. As a matter of fact, most of the people in Cuba are more fluent in English than are some of our high school students in the States.

    In the evening, we went to The Parisien Cabaret at the Hotel Nacional De Cuba which had been built by the Mafia in 1930. The Mafia had plans at that time to turn Havana into another Las Vegas. The Cabaret had a spectacular show which blended the Indo-American, Hispanic and African cultures that led to the Cuban culture of today.

    Havana is a very safe city. There are no guns, no drugs, no knives and no scissors allowed. I don’t get the scissors part either.  But, Oh, those cars!  Beautiful, colorful sixty year old Chevys, Buicks, and Fords are everywhere, as are mechanics. A Chevy might have a Ford back and a German engine, but it runs! Kind of! The Cuban people are very industrious and very talented. They can take any toss-away and create imaginative works of  art accompanied by beautiful music, and they are very kind and friendly. The economy is terrible, but they make do. Doctors and teachers make more on tips as tour guides than they can in their professions. Much like teachers in Arizona.

    5/6/18: Josh and Barbara’s 6th wedding anniversary.  Time for us to smoke some cigars!
    We took the “Cuban Rum, Cigars, and Art” tour.  Cuba has some of the best rum and cigars in the world. We went to the Havana Club to get an informative talk on the proper way to light and smoke cigars, and drink rum.  I smoked my first and never-again puff of a cigar, and enjoyed the rum and coffee so much that I really don’t remember the art part of that tour.

    When Josh and Barbara showered to get ready for their anniversary dinner the smoke alarm in their cabin went off, so everyone on the ship knew they were celebrating. People came down from the Bridge and from Security. The only person missing was Groucho Marx.  It was quite a party!

    5/7/18:  A day at sea.

    Cienfuegos, Cuba here we come.  To be continued——

    Friday
    May182018

    RUM AND CIGARS. IT MUST BE CUBA

    5/3/18:  The first leg of my trip to Cuba meant flying a puddle jumper to Phoenix, and then taking a direct flight to Miami , where the ship to Cuba was berthed. The plan was to rendezvous with my son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Barbara, who were flying in from Washington, DC.  

    Settling into my aisle seat on American Airlines, I exchanged pleasantries with an attractive woman who was sitting next to the window. The middle seat was empty. Suddenly, an ominous shadow was cast over my seat, and a voice barked, “Move over!” I looked up and saw a very tall, thin—-obviously angry—woman glaring at me. I replied, “If you step back, I will step into the aisle, so you can get into YOUR middle seat.” She then growled at the woman who was sitting next to the window, “I hope you aren’t planning to go the bathroom during the flight, because I don’t like to be disturbed.”

    The nice passenger replied, “I can’t promise you that I won’t get up.” However, she was either too  polite or cowed to ask, “What will you do to me if I have to go the bathroom.” At that, I looked for the flight attendant, so I could order an empty coffee can for my seat-mate. However, the flight attendant had gone into hiding as soon as she heard the exchange.

    We quickly buckled our seatbelts, and then quickly unbuckled when the pilot announced, “Because of tornados and bad weather heading East, there will be a delay. Then he announced, “The delay will be either for 1/2 an hour or one or two hours.” I shouted, “Do we get a vote?”  After all, it was my birthday.  

    The pilot ignored my cries but he then said, “For those of you who want to stretch your legs, you can get off the plane. You can stay or go, but if you get off, you have to take all of your belongings with you—including what’s in the overhead compartments.”

    I stayed on the plane, ran around and made some new friends—the smart ones who stayed on the plane. By the time all of the passengers got off and were counted, they were asked to get back on the plane and had to be checked in again. After everyone returned, we waited for another hour. “So,When are we going to leave?” I asked the flight attendant, who had come out of hiding. And she said, “You mean today?”

    We finally took off. The middle seat woman was fast asleep, and the woman next to the window had her legs crossed. Our plane was 2 hours late arriving in Miami. However, every good story should have a happy ending.

    My American Airline flight from Phoenix arrived at exactly the same time that Josh and Barbara’s American Airline flight from Washington, DC had arrived. Obviously, the bad weather had blown them in the right direction. And, their luggage arrived in Miami on the turnstile next to mine. All 6 suitcases arrived and we piled into a taxi headed for our overnight stay in a Miami hotel. So far so good.

    Tomorrow, the ship sails for Cuba.  

    To be continued——-

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Apr202018

    THEATRE OF THE IMAGINATION

    Some people go to the beach with metal detectors looking for hidden treasure. I look for it in used bookstores. Being a bit of a Luddite, I still enjoy using a tape cassette recorder, and recently stumbled upon, “60 Greatest Old-Time Radio Shows (1944-1955). Most of these shows transitioned to the “Golden Age of Television” (1950s and 1960’s) and featured shows included, Jack Benny (1950), Abbott and Costello (1947) and Milton Berle (1948).

    With a joyful reliving of my youth, I once again listened to, “With a speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi, Ho Silver,”’ as the Lone Ranger told his faithful companion,Tonto, “ I will change into my mask and riding clothes.”

    The thrilling days of yesteryear gave lots of work to organ players and other musicians who filled pauses, and added to the excitement of shows. The most famous music was,“The William Tell Overture” by Rossini, which was played before, “Adios,” and the presentation of the Lone Ranger’s silver bullet to some unsuspecting schmo in the crowd, who’d say something like, “He isn’t what he seems to be. It’s what he does that lets you know who he is.”

    Then there was the meek Clark Kent who transitioned (out of a phone booth—What’s that?) into guy who was “more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap buildings in a single bound.” It was before cell-phones so people could look up—-“It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman.”

    The humor in many of the sitcoms still holds up today. Those of you who remember the famous, “Who’s on First” baseball routine by Abbot and Costello, may not know, that they did other comedy routines on their radio show confusing the English language. One involved a play on words  about renting a car “Driving with Hertz”, and then buying a car “Putting up a down payment.” I could go on and on about funny lines in various shows such as “He fell into a vat of syrup and sweetened himself to death” (Allen’s Alley) or the announcer announcing the show, “Lassie Captures The One-Eyed Cat.” Yes, I listened to it. Radio was the “Theatre of Imagination,” including thrilling Westerns such as “Gun Smoke,” and shows that could raise the hairs on the back of your neck such as “Suspense.”

    However, as much as I enjoyed the shows, what I found most interesting were the commercials. Between laughs from Jack Benny was the sponsor of Lucky Strike cigarettes. “Let your taste and throat be the judge. There’s never a rough puff. Smoke a Lucky Strike.” The the famous singers, The Inkspots” sang “If I didn’t care” and promoted Lucky smokes. The announcer touted, “The largest, most complete cigarette research lab that judges sample leaves sent for scientific analysis to judge which tobacco is really fine.”  And, “There is an unconditional guarantee on every pack, ‘So round, So firm, So fully packed. So free and easy on the draw. So smoke a Lucky.”’

    Camel Cigarettes sponsored Abbott and Costello, “What cigarettes do you smoke? In a National survey, more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette. Satisfy your  ’T’ zone (throat and taste) pull up a chair and enjoy a Camel.”’ And the announcer bragged, “During the War, 153 million free Camels were giving to our military troops.”

    But, cigarettes weren’t the only products touted on the radio. While listening to Gun Smoke,
    and U.S. Marshall, Matt Dillon fight the “violence that followed people going to the West,” I heard, ‘Take it easy Mom, boys and girls like Sugar Crinkles—the first spoonful of cereal that’s just the right sweet and makes breakfast more fun than a circus.

    While holding my breath waiting for the the dramatic conclusion on “Suspense” I was treated to, “From bumper to taillight, you’re always right with Auto Light.” I think this jingle preceded rap poetry. Then there was Maxwell House Coffee, “Good to the last drop,” and Lux Soap, “Hollywood’s luxury soap.”  One of my favorites was for Fitch Shampoo.  You can get rid of
    embarrassing dandruff with explicit instructions how to apply, rub it in and rinse for only 59 cents a bottle. Fitch sponsored, “Have Gun Will Travel” (1957) with “Paladin the gentleman gunfighter” (whose name came from a knight warrior from Charlemagne’s Court.)

    Of course, listeners could always “Keep on your toes with No Doz, the little pill that gives the lift of a coffee break.” Before you think it strange that I listened to commercials, remember that in 2018 you can watch the best commercials from the Super Bowl. How weird is that?

    When I was 12-years-old, my parents took me to NYC and treated me to a ticket to to view the actors presenting my favorite radio show, “Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy.” That  experience was an ugly jolt from my imagination to reality. My hero Jack was in reality, the voice of a chubby, little old lady wearing a dress and hat with a feather, and when the breathless lady (Jack ) jumped on a horse to catch a robber, the horse went clump, clump with the sound effects of coconuts being banged on a table. Never listened to the show again.

    Sometimes, “The Theatre of the Mind” really is  the best show in town.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Apr132018

    THE SHADOW KNOWS

    When I was a little girl, I wanted to be tall. So, every night, before I fell asleep, I stretched my legs, convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that this exercise would make me taller.

    However, heredity  foiled my attempts, and to this day, I still have problems getting products down from top shelves at the grocery store. That’s why, several cans of coffee tumbled to the floor, and one hit me on the head when I pulled the bottom can out of the high stack. Even the listed price was too far up for me to read, so I ripped it off the shelf. I may not be tall, but I’m too old to climb a ladder, and the customer is always right.

    The only time I get an inkling of how it feels to be tall is when I am hiking and the sun is at my back. Then my shadow is tall and skinny like a giant. So, it’s me and my shadow.  Someone really should write a song about that!

    I never had a desire to live in anyone else’s shadow, because I enjoy rambling along with my own. My shadow is a momentary affirmation that I exist. But, I am a realist, and I know that as soon as a cloud covers the sun, I will, once again, walk alone. Unfortunately, my shadow is always on the verge of being erased.

    Another shadow can tip me off if someone is walking behind me. That shadow can look extremely threatening, so I always turn around to look. I want to be sure that it isn’t Big Foot  crunching those rocks behind me on the path. And, Yes, I do know that a very little person can cast a big shadow, but it’s a good idea not to take a chance. I never worry about Vampires, because I know that they don’t have shadows, because they have no souls.

    Jim Barrie’s, Peter Pan lost his shadow, but Wendy Darling helped Peter by sewing his shadow back on.  Lady Gaga said, “If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light.” Well, that’s a shadow of an idea, if I ever heard one. And, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn said, “Stars and Shadows ain’t good to see by.” And, he never even met Lady Gaga.

    My shadow is a comfort. It reminds me that I endure. However, if I turn my face to the sun, my shadow falls behind me, and then, if I walk in the shade, it disappears and doesn’t even leave a trace. So the trick is to keep the sun at my back and the wind in my sails and persevere.

    Esther Blumenfeld (“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won!”) Muhammed Ali