REVISITED: The Trouble With Belgium

(This was published in November 2015. I thought it was worth revisiting in view of the  last  few day’s events. I love Belgium and wish I were there right now. So sad.)

As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, and we snuggle beside our cozy home fires behind the Redwood Curtain, it’s apparent that the world is at war again, maybe for the rest of my lifetime.  Everyone is mourning what has happened in Paris.   I’ve been there,  too, but my connection is to Belgium and I hate watching the news these days.

In 1994 I spent a couple of weeks in Belgium, a country which a lot of Americans miss when they visit Europe.  Their loss. You cannot find a greater concentration of history, culture, museums, art, belfries, windmills, canals and just overall loveliness,  keeping in mind that it’s a small country and Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges are separated by only a short train ride. And the food! All this in a country where practically everyone speaks English.

It’s puzzling to me that more Americans haven’t visited Belgium.  Brussels is the capital of Europe, of NATO of course, and the European Community or Union or whatever they’re calling it these days.  The hotels are full of diplomats who make charming breakfast companions even if they can’t resist making a point or two about the textile tariffs they were sent there to discuss.  But Belgium is also a tortured country,  cobbled together in the post-Napoleonic era with an existential split between the  French-speaking  Walloons in the south and the Flemish population in the North. Brussels is the capital of everything bad in Europe –  arms dealing, drugs, pornography.  It’s all there.

Even in 1994 there were millions of Muslims in Belgium.  I stopped in at a little cafeteria in Antwerp and when the proprietors learned I was American, they practically jumped over the counter.   “WE are Kurds! We LOFF America!  We LOFF George BOOSH!” they told me over and over, referring to the complexities of the Kurdish situation as summarized HERE.  I stayed a couple of hours while they had me try everything on their menu. I made a halfhearted attempt to tell them that not everyone in America loved George Bush but I didn’t make much headway.  They wanted me to go home with them to drink coffee.  I’m sorry I didn’t go.  It would be great to have their perspective on what’s happening now.

I saw a lot of Muslims on that trip.  The neighborhood in Oslo where the Munch “Scream” was stolen from its museum- once, or was it twice?- is a Muslim enclave, large and dreary and gray. My companions on the train to Stockholm were Iranians, and great company.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Belgium but I’m missing it terribly as I write this. And I never even got to Waterloo!  May the New Year bring us sufficient peace on earth to allow us to travel safely again. 


Well, that didn’t take long! Fortuna Grocery Outlet building for sale already!

With all this rain, we haven’t even made it to Fortuna to check out the new GO and here the building is for sale already! Talk about a quick flip!  Here, courtesy of LoopNet,  is the listing and while you’re  at it you can also pick up the hotel on the Riverwalk. Read about it HERE.


How Low Can the GOP Go?

If you live long enough, and have a big family, eventually you’re connected to someone famous, however distantly. My cousin, the law professor, spent three days at a seminar in Rome with Antonin Scalia and is wistful about his recent passing.  Personally, I had no use for the man but obviously his influence was huge and his passing momentous. 

Now it appears that the execrable Mitch McConnell and the band of cretins who are currently running the Republican Party are perfectly willing to bring the government grinding to a halt rather than allow our President to fill a vacancy as prescribed in the Constitution.  The collapse of the Republican Party, decimated by Tea Party defections and drifting without any purpose except obstruction, is NOT good news for Democrats. An intelligent and conscientious opposition is crucial to any party. 

Remember not too long ago when Republicans and Democrats actually GOVERNED together?  The GOP/Tea Party has never accepted the legitimacy of this President because he is Black, and I have heard some of you express this. You know who you are. Will the GOP continue down the path of darkness and Know-Nothingism aka Trumpism?? Say tuned.


Me and the Caucus

During the years I lived in Hawaii (1982-1993) I had to adapt to the fact that Hawaii does not hold primary elections- instead, they have caucuses.  One year- I think it was 1988- I decided to attend a caucus in support of Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition.

Like most things in Hawaii,  the caucus was extremely laid back. We met in a classroom at Hali’ewa Elementary School.  My fellow Caucusoids were thirteen very nice, very elderly gentlemen,  primarily of Japanese background. The youngest one was seventy. We got to know each other, talked story for awhile, then filled out ballots. The count came in with no surprises: thirteen ballots for Sen. Dan Inouye, one for Jesse Jackson.  We did some paperwork,  then the conversation turned to the fact that they normally had someone from that precinct, or whatever it was called, attend the State convention in Maui, and they had no one lined up to go.

They were all looking at me hopefully.  One of them- he must have been in his nineties- told me about the good time I’d have.  You might think it would be easy to talk someone into a weekend on Maui but believe me, when you’re already on Oahu, it’s no big deal. I asked the nonagenarian what type of folks I would be meeting with on Maui.  “Oh, just like us”, he assured me. I decided to pass.

I may have missed out on a fascinating experience by not attending but I’m pretty blasé about political conventions,  having had a good seat at the 1964 Goldwater convention at the Cow Palace. But that’s another story for another time.