The News About Castro (Missed Opportunities)

“Well-informed sources in Miami announced the imminent fall of Fidel Castro, it was only a matter of hours.” — Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadows

Before there was a Plan B, there was another plan. No, not Plan A. Call it Plan B-1.

Plan A was Argentina, but that fell through. I hurriedly researched various locations: Iceland and Mexico were chief among the contenders. But one country was at the top of my list: Cuba.

For more than five decades, Americans have been banned from traveling to Cuba. The U.S. has maintained an economic embargo established during the Cold War soon after Fidel Castro took power. Only a small number of people who had obtained U.S. government permission could travel there.

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Ticking Clocks

The question comes up often: Why don’t I do this full time? Travel. Write about travel. Make it my job, my life.

I envy some of my fellow bloggers who have put careers on hold, sold their belongings, and set off around the world. The guy who writes the voluminous how-to guides, the Australian midwife, the intrepid budget travelers, all those couples on open-ended global honeymoons. It’s what I should have done at their age. In my twenties, I wanted to live abroad. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t. Sometimes.

The thing is I have a career. I’m a writer, an editor, a journalist. I work on magazines. I’ve worked for a long time to become good at my vocation. I endured crap jobs that paid so little I lived on rice and macaroni & cheese. I moved from city to city following the next job.

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The Travel Ban

I saw a video this morning from over the past weekend. The news were interviewing an Iranian-American man who had been waiting for his brother to arrive at LAX airport in Los Angeles when he learned that his brother had been detained and was going to be deported. The man was distraught. “I left Iran because of this,” he said. “I’ve lived in America for twenty years,” he said. “I am an American citizen.” “Now this happens here,” he said.

I’ve heard many similar stories this week since the sudden ban on travelers from seven Middle Eastern, majority-Muslim nations and the 120-day suspension of admission for all refugees. Families, children being detained for hours. Green card holders who were legal residents of the U.S. There were protests against the ban at airports in major cities and federal court rulings blocking it. And yet it continues.

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On 1Q84

“Things may look different than they did before. I’ve had that experience myself. But don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality.” — Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

During the late summer and fall of last year, I read Haruki Murakami’s massive novel, 1Q84. The story involves two people who come to realize they are no longer living in the reality in which they thought they were living. Their reality has shifted, as if it was a railroad car that has been switched to another track.

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The Law

In 2008, authorities in Dubai arrested a U.K. couple who were caught having sex on one of the emirate’s beaches. Officials there recently had begun cracking down on indecent behavior by foreign tourists. The couple were sentenced to three months in jail for the incident.

Last year, officials in Cambodia arrested a group of tourists who had taken nude photos of themselves at the temples of the Angkor Archaeological Park. It was the third such incident in that year, spurring park authorities to post flyers informing tourists that nude photography desecrated the sacred temples. In the previous two cases, the offenders were deported and, in one case, they were banned from returning to Cambodia for four years.

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June 2016

Every time something terrible happens in the world, I hear the same thing. Bombings in Brussels or Paris. An explosion in Sinai in Egypt. A hostage siege at a Mumbai hotel. Guerillas and bandits in Guatemala, Mexico, or Peru. Terrorism.

“I’d never go there,” they say.

Every time I’m preparing for a trip, I get the same questions.

“Is it safe there? What if something happens?”

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I’m Not Neal Gabler

I’m not Neal Gabler, but I could have been like him.

Gabler’s feature story in The Atlantic describes the financial woes of a successful author, journalist, and critic struggling to maintain an upper-middle-class life while putting two daughters through private schools and top universities, and juggling two mortgages on a freelance writer’s income. As Gabler writes:

“I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses. But, like many Americans, I wanted my children to keep up with the Joneses’ children, because I knew how easily my girls could be marginalized in a society where nearly all the rewards go to a small, well-educated elite. (All right, I wanted them to be winners.)”

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