My New Years Vacation

Erasmo Calzadilla

Some of the neighborhood kids.
Some of the neighborhood kids.

Over the New Year’s vacation, I was hanging around the house and decided to avail myself of the time to read some fiction I hadn’t touched for quite a while.  I began with the novel “A Brave New World” by Aldoux Huxley, a tale of dystopia that is not very well known here in Cuba, at least not as much as its successor, “1984,” Orwell’s classic.

I’m enjoying it a great deal, and in addition I’m learning new words like “hypnopedia,” for example.  With that word I can now give a name to the procedure -used so extensively in our schools- of making children repeat certain mesmerizing mantras day after day until these become their fixed vision of the world.

Another word that I’ll upgrade is “surrogate.” I’ll use it to refer to the invention that, under the name “Philosophy and Society,” is taught at all Cuban universities.

But since reading only one book at a time doesn’t fulfill me, even though this is a good one, for dessert I’m feasting on the bestseller “Interview with the Vampire,” by Annie Rice.  It’s a book that I would never have dared crack if a trustworthy lunatic hadn’t recommended it emphatically.

I’m half way through it, but I can already say that I don’t regret having learned about the intimacies of such a macabre order of bloodsuckers.  These are sensual and interesting types who make me reflect on life and death much more than the serious texts I routinely reflect over.

On the other hand, days during the New Year vacation are sad ones for me, particularly since people organize drunken festivities whose ceremonial highpoint is the cold-blooded stabbing of a pig’s heart.

The victim’s anguished screeches then resonate, and I imagine this is part of the grace.  The musical background is strident, repetitive, banal, aggressive and mindlessly catchy as its vanilla coating penetrates the most isolated corners.

But not everything is sadness during this time of year.  In the afternoons I take advantage of the chance to attend to a vacant lot near the house.  It’s a place where a few dreamers planted tree sprouts with the hope that one day the muddy, weed-covered plot would be transformed into the park that the Electrico neighborhood lacks.

To my surprise, I can now count on an enthusiastic gang of kids who hound me to take them to work on the “park.”  Though these youngsters each measure less than four feet, they work hard for their age and without anyone forcing them.  They cut the grass, water the plants and, in short, have appropriated this project without a great deal effort or any arm-twisting.  Nothing can make me happier.

In closing this story in a cheerful way, I’m counting on visits by certain folks over these cool nights at the end of the year.  No matter how much I try, these are people whose company makes it difficult to feel alone. One of them is Irina Echarry, another blogger with “Havana Times” and a new acquisition in my collection of friends.

Then too, there’s Julito Lazcano, an old consort of high adventure and tall tales who one day left us to go try his luck in other lands.  Julito has returned for a few days after having been gone for a long time, but it seems like it was yesterday when I last saw him.  We’ve already taken off from where we were at in our endless philosophical discussions.

Well, that’s what I’m doing this New Year’s, and hopefully all those who read this (and those who don’t) will spend theirs equally well.

3 thoughts on “My New Years Vacation

  • A lot of heart in this piece.

    I once knew a wise girl,
    We all called her “Bubbles;”
    The wisest she said was,
    “We all have got troubles.”

    Cheer up, Erasmo . . .

    Merry Christmas! and a Happy New Year!

  • I actually happened by because I noticed your choice of reading matter. It has been many decades since I read Brave New World and I was just looking over the synopsis again.
    ‘Challenging Preconceptions’.
    For whatever reason, a couple of thoughts have stayed with me since childhood : excuses perhaps for an inordinate taste for what is sometimes called ‘speculative fiction’ as well as S-F, scifi or something else. One was that people will tell truths in tales as allegory that they would not reveal except for the disclaimer. Another was that my problem of understanding could be as much things I knew that were not so ; more disabling than ignorance.
    And I tend to run around online. I’m aware, of course, that educational institutions are full of ideas on navigation – as do newspapers, etc. I didn’t know that when I started surfing and have kept my own file of interesting URLs from reading news and hopping around.
    Index at includes some…

  • !Happy New Year, Erasmo! Although Shakespeare has one of his characters saying that “the evil men do lives after them, the good is oft interred in their bones,” I feel that the park you and the kids are constructing in Electrico will live after you, like the red hibiscus bushes planted along the trails of the Commandancia by Celia Sanchez in 1958, which flower to this day. Too bad the students at the University are denied the guidance of such a talented “midwife.” Then again, even up here the “hacks of academe” (as one of my favorite writers, Gore Vidal, calls them) often triumph over anyone talented enough to challenge their preconceptions and assumptions. In any event, a curriculum is just a beginning to obtaining real knowledge (and it is often obtained anyway, in spite of, or even without exposure to, any official curriculum).
    With Best Wishes for the New Year!

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