Archive | November, 2013

Black Friday Brings Protests Outside Long Beach Walmartst

30 Nov

More than 30 people protested outside the Walmart in downtown Long Beach on Friday, Nov. 29, as part of a national protest against Walmart’s treatment of its workers.

One protester was D. Elizabeth Martin. Martin, who is a practicing lawyer and who once lived in Long Beach but now Orange County, said, “I’m here because we need to start learning that corporate greed and corporate welfare always seems to go unnoticed and it is the poor who pay the price for it and it is the poor who are stigmatized for it. Every Walmart store in the United States costs us on average $500,000 a year between (sic) the taxes lost, the food stamps their employee are qualified for, (and) the state insurance they qualify for. So, the low prices you see are not really low prices. We are all paying taxes to support the low wages of their workers.”

Martin’s law partner, Richard Spix, said, “Walmart has earned my eternal scorn and derision through their nefarious business…model that has so many well-known defects an inhuman treatment along their entire supply chain.”
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Walmart, in a press release signed by David Tovar, Vice President, Corporate Communications, said, in part, “We’re not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard. We expect some demonstrations at our stores today, although far fewer than what our critics are claiming and with hardly any actual Walmart associates participating. For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy. Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour. The majority of our workforce is full-time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour. We are also proud of the benefits we offer our associates, including affordable health care, performance-based bonuses, education benefits, and access to a 401K.”

Lovely Loule

28 Nov

Loule is a delightful little city. In spite of any of our errors entering address information in the GPS, we found the hotel with little delay.

When we arrived, since the hotel clerk informed us a buffet breakfast as part of the room charge would be available the next morning and with our own fruit, cheese, and bread in the cold car, we decided we didn’t need to shop for any groceries but were hungry.
We found an Italian restaurant a couple of blocks down from the hotel. Typically, Marlene was not happy with the food but I enjoyed it. We then walked further and found a castle. The castle now houses an archeological museum. The museum entrance was locked. We then walked around the perimeter of the castle where we found written descriptions on plaques for some early buildings. One described the Convent and a second described a Moorish bathhouse. Next to the bathhouse was a fountain, which was once used by the locals for their water. We then walked back to the hotel.

On returning from our little adventure, Marlene realized she could not find her manilla folder, phone book, or phone. She searched everywhere, but could not find them. One drawer was jammed and could not be opened. After searching around for a while and noticing a window would not completely lock, she decided the most likely case was someone climbed into the window from the outside. I tried to explain to her that with all our hardware, meaning our computers and cameras that it did not make much sense for some burglar once in the room to only steal her cellphone. However, she was not listening to me. She was convinced the stuff was stolen.

By evening, she worked herself up so that she became frightened because she felt unsafe in the room. A light near the front of room several times turned off and on. Marlene became more frightened and I called the night clerk. He came to the room but had no explanation about the lights or the missing items. She got more frightened and asked me to hold her. I did.

In the morning after breakfast, she complained again to the morning hotel clerk and decided to file a police report. To Marlene’s credit, she was careful not to accuse anyone. The day clerk explained to her the existence of the second light switch on the head board, which the pillows covered. While the riddle of the light flashing off and all was solved, her things were still missing.

After breakfast, we walked to the police station to file the report. We arrived about noon. The police station only had one person who spoke English well enough for Marlene to give the report to and he was busy with someone else. We waited about an hour and he was still not available but then he walked into the waiting room, where we asked him when he thought he could see us. He told us 2:30 p.m. We decided to walk around a little while and then return to meet with the officer. We decided to go back to the castle, to its little archeological museum. We walked through the museum and around the castle turrets. We then walked up the street to the market. This was about halfway up the town according to our little, free map. About 2 p.m., we found a snack bar, where we ate. By the time the food was served and was eaten, it was approaching 3 p.m. We decided not to return to the police station but to leave and file the police report in Lisbon. On returning to the hotel, I noticed a car was parked behind us, which would have made it more difficult for us to leave.

When we got back to the hotel, hotel personnel asked Marlene to follow them back to the room. They then opened the jammed drawer. Marlene’s things were all there. She thanked everyone profusely and we left easily because the unknown parked car was gone. Everything was resolved. We were headed back to Lisbon and the tow roads approaching it.

Passing through Seville

27 Nov

After leaving Granada, Marlene and I drove to Seville. We had no problem finding the hotel, The Virgin of the Kings. Of course, being born Jewish and now an atheist, in my typical vulgar self, I had to make a joke about the name in the form of a riddle. Let me proceed and I hope I do not offend anyone who may read this. If one king had his way the virgin, then she could only be the virgin of one king and not more than one king. How can she be the Virgin of the Kings?

Let me return to our trip. While we had no problem finding the hotel, we had a horrible time finding the hotel’s parking, which was attached in the rear. Marlene got instructions on how to find the parking structure. While receptionist was telling her in Spanish how to get there, Marlene was telling me in English. However, I did not realize she expected me to remember the instructions. She tried to find the structure three or four times, driving around in circles. Each time, when it was obvious she made a wrong turn, I would put the GPS on to get us back to the front of the hotel. Finally she gave up and made me drive. Because I was following the GPS, I knew two of the three streets we needed to turn on and we knew the third was immediately behind the hotel. After following the instructions from the GPS carefully and then driving slowly, we found the parking structure. One problem still remained, the incline down the structure was narrow and dark and steep, so steep I could not see the bottom, but I made it through O.K. Not knowing the city, hungry, and needing to find fresh fruit for our morning breakfast, we starting walking to the English Court, which we saw in our travels to the parking structure. We ate there. I did not find the food good. I considered it overpriced. We then went shopping in the grocery store, which is usually, if not always at the bottom of the store. There we bought our fruit and bread. I then bought some cured tuna, which I ate in the hotel room and was horribly expensive but absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, we left the next morning without seeing any of Seville. Driving out of the parking structure was horrible. While driving up the incline, the car stalled. We rolled back and I think it is where we scratched the car. The path was so narrow that Marlene could not get out of the car to reopen the door to the structure. Backing up to straighten out the car and to give Marlene room to get out caused me to scratch the car a second time. Finally Marlene was able to get out and open the door. This time I gunned the engine and made it to the top. While driving up the ramp, I could feel the car vibrate up the incline. I was visibly shaken by the experience. I was exhausted without even driving far. While leaving the city, I saw a horse-drawn carriage, which is all I can remember. We then drove back to Portugal and spent the night in Loule, a tiny, ancient city, which once the Moors dominated.

A Night of Flamenco

22 Nov

After our short nap, our last night in Granada was spent at a Flamenco show, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While we had a small problem arriving to the show, because the bus that bus was supposed to pick us up never came. Instead, we had to take a taxi, which the owner of the Flamenco show paid for. Driving up the narrow road to the location of the show was a harrowing experience. The taxi driver sped up and down the narrow one-way streets, sometimes in the wrong direction. At least a couple of times the taxi driver had to back up, because traffic in the right direction was approaching him. As we climbed higher and higher, we periodically could see the not-so-far-away lit-up Alhambra. While in the taxi, Marlene told me that the venue was in a cave, that Spanish gypsies come from Egypt, that the word, gypsy comes from Egypt, which I already knew from reading Shakespeare, in particularly “Antony and Cleopatra,” and that Flamenco originated from Spanish gypsies.

Finally we arrived to the venue, the Venta El Gallo. We still had to climb up a narrow path first with steps and then an incline. The taxi driver led the way. When we entered the venue, the taxi driver was paid and we waited in the lobby and dining area for the next show to begin. A hostess sat us down at table and offered us free drinks, while we waited. Marlene and I each ordered water with gas. Soon after we sat down, a crowd of about 30 people came in and were also waiting for the next show to begin.

When the previous show ended, because we were already in the venue, we were the first escorted to the front of the showroom and stage. Three other Spanish-speaking tourists asked if they could sit with us and we agreed, since three vacant seats were available. The showroom probably sat no more than 60 people, with about six seats to a row with about 10 rows.

When we sat down I noticed already on stage was a little girl of about seven and an adult male guitar player, who was warming up by practicing. The child sat on the left side of the stage and the guitar player sat it the back, left of center. Then after a short while, three flamenco dancers walked from the rear to the stage, followed by two other women, who were the singers. The two singers sat to the right of the guitar player. The singers sang in a manner, which reminded me of Jewish davening or Islamic praying.

For the first set, the three dancers, whose skin were a dark olive, first danced together and then separately. Each in turn, when finished would sit down on the same side of the child. The youngest of three dancers was probably in her early 20s. She was the first to dance and probably danced the longest of the three. By the time she finished, she her skin shined from perspiration and was still perspiring profusely. The man danced second. He was probably about 30 and dressed in black. When he started, he had a jacket on, but during his dancing, he flung it to the side. When he finished, he picked up his jacket. The third dancer was probably in her middle 40s. I remember seeing her after the previous show walking past me. She also on two occasions was able to jump into the air and was the only one of the three who jumped into the air. I got the impression the dancing, as well as the singing and music, was improvised. While one dancer was on stage, the other dancers would clap to the music including the girl. The two singers would rotate singing and when one was singing the other was also clapping to the music.

The dancers would swerve the bodies sensually. At other times, they would tap their boots building to a crescendo. After about 45 minutes, the first set was done. After a break of about 15 minutes, the second set began. Each of the three dancers again danced in turn. I noticed during the second set that the girl would occasionally speak to the older female dancer. It looked like the girl was getting advice. After the three older dancers were done, the young girl danced. She was so limber that she could bend backwards much further than the three adults, who danced before her. When she was finished, the whole audience was ecstatic, including me. Marlene stood up and was yelling, “Bravo, Bravo,” but Marlene was not alone in her actions. Others in audience also shouted enthusiastically. Then all four dancers danced for a short encore and the show was over. The whole show was about an hour and half. It was after midnight when it finished. We got ride back on one of the two buses that group who came in after us was driven in. By the time Marlene and I got back to the hotel, it was about 1 a.m. We finally fell asleep about 2 a.m., after discussing the show. The next day, we left for Seville.

A Visit to the Garcia Lorca Museum

20 Nov

Our last day in Granada was spent going to the Garcia Lorca Park and Museum during the early afternoon and then in the late evening going to hear Flameco music. We took a taxi to the Garcia Lorca Park, where we walked through the park to the museum. Our timing for the museum was perfect, although we did not plan it. When we arrived at the museum, we only had to wait a few minutes for our tour. Lorca was a Spanish playwright and poet, who Franco had killed during the Spanish Civil War. The museum consists of two parts, the Lorca family summer home and the bookstore, where the caretaker lived, while the family was in exile.

The simply appointed two-story home was where Lorca wrote many of his plays for the University Theater and perhaps some of his poetry. When he was there in the summer, he could see the Sierra Nevada, which inspired him. The art on the walls were mostly given as gifts from his friends. A painting in the living room was of his mother. The female guide, who spoke Spanish and for me English described the various rooms, including the upstairs. While upstairs, I asked her about Lorca’s politics. He was a member of the Spanish Socialist Party. I asked her his attitude about the P.O.U.M., which I spoke of in at least one earlier post. She avoided the question, but, perhaps I was not clear. She told me the Socialist Party was the oldest among the three ‘Marxist’ parties, meaning the Socialists, the P.O.U.M., and the Communist. She was correct. (In fact, the P.O.U.M. was the youngest.) She also said the most important trade union was the anarchist C.N.T. (National Confederation of Labor), which was also true. (The UGT, the other major trade union during the Spanish Civil War, which I also mentioned early and in which the Stalinists expelled the P.O.U.M. militants, also existed.)

The little bookstore had for sale books Lorca authored. I was tempted to buy a small volume of his plays, but I decided not to because I have some plays by Langston Hughes, the late, great African-American poet, which I have not read. Lorca, like Hughes, was a homosexual, or if you will gay.

A Day at the Beautful Alhambra

18 Nov

I forgot to mention on the second day in Granada, after purchasing our tickets to the Alhambra, I dropped my beloved little camera. After dropping it, it stopped working completely, which is why no more photos will be posted for this trip, unless I get some from Marlene. I told Marlene it was like losing an old friend. I’ve used the camera now for at least a couple years. Most recently I used it for shooting news photos, which the LBReport.com has published.

Back on a happier note, our third day was spent at the Alhambra, which is high above the city. We had a 2 p.m. appointment for the gardens and a 5 p.m. appointment for the palace. We took the city bus 30 to the Alhambra. Marlene’s knees were bothering her. So, we got a wheelchair for her, although she walked at least a third of the time. Whenever possible, Marlene took videos of the views of the city and of the gardens. While in the upper part of the gardens, we met an American artist, who I met in the hotel lobby the day before. We talked for a while. Marlene mentioned to him her camera was losing its charge. He graciously offered her his camera. However, she declined his offer.

We walked a little farther. I saw a man with a camera with a wide aperture. Admiring the camera and being intrigued with it, I asked him if he shoots sports. He said no and then I told him it was a lot of work, schlepping such a large camera around. We continued our conversation. He shoots photos for a hobby. I suggested he do a website with his photos and then send out query letters to publishers, who might be interested in his work. He seemed to lack the self-confidence to pursue my suggestion. He’s from New York and up until recently was working as a glassblower. He showed us his bandaged wrists and told us he had to give glassblowing up. We told him we were from Long Beach, California. He told us he knew of glassblowing art galleries there. Then, I told him that was because of the art department at California State University Long Beach.

We then continued walking toward the palace with Marlene walking periodically, when I was not rolling her in the wheelchair. On the way to the palace, I stopped and let Marlene sit in the wheelchair for a few minutes, while I went to the bathroom to urinate. On returning, I found a vending machine in which I bought a small cup of tea with lemon. Then Marlene walked to the bathroom, while I waited for her with my tea and her wheelchair.

Finally we arrived at the front of the palace. One advantage of having Marlene in the wheelchair was the guards put us first in line. Marlene then decided she wanted an audio recording of the tour for us to listen while in the palace. I walked back and rented two objects that looked like phones for our listening. The woman, who gave me the devices, informed me the devices needed to be returned by 6 p.m. Otherwise, the bookstore would be closed and therefore I could not get my driver’s license until the next day.

The tour started promptly. We walked through the various rooms and chambers listening to the audio recording. Some of the same rooms, such as the Court of the Lions and the Ambassadors’ Hall are mentioned in Irving’s book. When we finished the official tour it was about 5:45 p.m. I had less than fifteen minutes to return the devices. I rushed up some stairs with the wheelchair, left Marlene wheelchair at the top of the stairs and walked as quickly as I could to the bookstore. I made it with five minutes to spare.

We took our time walking back to the front entrance. Marlene stopped at a souvenir stand and bought a tee shirt, three watercolor prints, and a golden-blue cloth bookmark with Arabic designs with Granada embossed on top and Alhambra embossed on the bottom. Marlene was speaking with some Spanish students when I entered the souvenir shop. Finally we left. We continued walking toward the entrance but realized it was closed. On the premises of the Alhambra is a hotel. The hotel clerk told Marlene we needed to walk back to the taxis, which was past the souvenir shop and then around. It was too far for Marlene and me to walk. Instead, we hired a taxi. The taxi driver put the wheelchair in the taxi and drove us to the front entrance. I began rolling the wheelchair toward the entrance, when a security guard immediately came out and took the wheelchair from me. We then took the taxi to the Cathedral and paid the taxi driver with a handsome tip for being so helpful. We then took public transport back to the hotel. That was the end of a delightful day.

First Two Days in Granada

17 Nov

As always driving in the center of a city was difficult, because of so many narrow one-way streets and not knowing the street names. However, we finally arrived at the hotel in Granada. It is a small, beautiful city. After parking the car, we immediately found a small fruit market, where we purchased our breakfast. We then began walking toward the Cathedral, which is in the center of the touristic district. We had walked about two or three blocks and across the Gran Via de Colon was a demonstration of the trade union UGT (General Union of Workers). Marlene and I stopped, shot some photos, and interviewed one of the demonstrators. During the interview the woman, who wished not to be identified, said they were government workers and they were protesting that the government was going to cut their wages. She also told us that to protests were going to continue for a week and would spread to other parts of Spain and finally she told us that the union was not affiliated with any particular party, although it seems it is affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party, which if I remember correctly is part of the Second International.

We then continued walking toward the Cathedral. On our way, we found a bookstore, which catered to tourists. There we found Washington Irving’s “Tales of Alhambra” with music CD, which Marlene purchased. We then continued toward the church. At the church we walked down steps on one side of the church, with Marlene periodically shooting, while I watched because I knew my little camera does not shoot well in the dark. A short ways down, we found another store, where Marlene purchased a basked with a cover on it to be used outside.

We then walked back up the street, crossed the Gran Via de Colon and found a restaurant, whose red seats were advertising Coca Cola. We sat down and ordered some vegetarian food. I had couscous with water and I cannot remember what Marlene ordered, but I do remember eating it because Marlene did not like it. After eating, we then caught a public bus for one Euro and 20 cents. We took it two stops and walked back to our hotel.

Our second day, but first full day was spent on the Granada Tour Bus, which took us to the major sites of the city, which included the Cathedral, the Alhambra, the Science Park, the Garcia Lorca Park and Museum, and others. When we traveled up the steep hill to the Alhambra, we had a gorgeous view of Granada. When the bus, got us back to the Cathederal, we took public transport back to the hotel. That night, we took a taxi to a fish restaurant, where I had Swordfish, with a pimento salad and water without gas. Marlene had Verduras al Plancha, which grilled vegetables with water with gas. Unfortunately for Marlene, the onions bothered her, however I enjoyed the rest of her vegetables. It turned out the restaurant was a short walk back to Gran Via de Colon, where we caught the public bus back to the hotel.