Somewhere in northern Spain, July 11, 2015 – Happy Birthday to me....Yep, I celebrated numero 82 on July 6, then got stuck with a present I didn't deserve and didn't want.
To celebrate my b'day, I met landlady Elvira and her sort-of husband for coffee at the Cafe New York. After Elvira presented me with some hard candies and a CD of very pleasant jazz, I walked home – about half a mile – and began experiencing severe pain in my left hip, thigh, and leg. Couldn't imagine what it was, but I knew I couldn't continue functioning with the pain, but I didn't want to take a chance on the Spanish health system and costs; so I wrote my sister in Florida and asked if I could stay there a couple of months while I got treatment at the VA clinic in Orlando.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, but I would suffer severe pain on the plane. Sounds like sciatica, she guessed.
I could barely walk. I could put any weight on my left leg only by holding it stiff as a board. This is not the way you're supposed to spend your birthday – even your 82nd!
That night I slept fitfully. I couldn't find a comfortable place for my left leg. The next morning I couldn't walk all the way to the Cafe NY, so I hobbled to the nearby Joma cafe, where I was struck by an idea. A reflexologist/physical therapist has his office less than a block from my apartment. Could he help?
So on my way home, I dropped into his office, explained my problem, and asked, “Can you help me?”
The answer was yes, so I made an appointment for 5:45 that afternoon (Tuesday).
In the meantime, I looked sciatica up on the Internet. It said it would take three weeks to three months to recover. Oh Lord, Bozhe moi, Madre de Dios, Gott in Himmel!
I hobbled to my appointment. For an hour, he pushed, he pulled, he pried, he massaged. He even used acupuncture on my thigh. But at the end of an hour, I could actually walk almost normally. My leg still hurt, and I was limited in my leg movements, but I could walk!
I made an appointment for the next day and he repeated the process. On Thursday I was able to walk to the Cafe NY. On Friday Elvira again met me for coffee, and I told her about my b'day present. She had had it too, and could sympathize.
That afternoon, yesterday, I had another appointment and today it is almost completely healed. Instead of the 3 weeks to 3 months warned by the Internet, I am virtually sciatica-free after 3 days, thanks to reflexology, physical therapy and acupuncture.
One of the reasons I was so dismayed by the turn of events was that I have an appointment with the U.S. Consulate on the 28th of July – 2-1/2 weeks from now – to jump through some more hoops on the way – hopefully – to my Spanish residency.
When Vanya arrived for a two-week visit back in May, we talked to his former boyfriend, Jose, about my predicament in trying to get a police report from Russia – an almost impossible task. After listening to his tale of my plight, a local official said I would have to get a police report – not from Russia, but from the U.S.
Simple, right? Wrong!
I have to request the police report from the FBI. But to do that, I have to send a set of fingerprints for ID purposes. But to do that, I have to make an appointment with
the American consulate, which means I have to travel for 6 or 7 hours on the cross-country bus to meet for 15 minutes with a minion from the Consulate and pay him/her $ 50 to write a letter to the police department in my home town asking them to take a set of my fingerprints to in turn send to the FBI and ask them for a police report. What a 3-ring bureaucracy. But rules are rules, dahling!
Then, 60 days later, maybe I'll get a police report and maybe I'll get my residency.
I had an alarming e-mail from my St. Peterburg boyfriend, whose name henceforth and forevermore will be Pietya. I can never again use his real name, as you can understand after reading his e-mail, which follows:
I just googled my name on Google and it found your website.
what if my straight friends or my family see those entries on your website? Honey, you have to understand: both my family and my friends think I am straight. Everybody thinks I am straight, I look straight, I am not feminine and do not dress fashionably. So if my family or friends read these entries, read your comments about me, then they will understand I am gay. They will forever hate and despise me. I will lose all my friends.
My friends will literally spit into my face and will give me a nickname Faggot. They will never accept me as a gay. They all think that gays are perverts who made a deliberate choice to be gay. I will not be able to overcome this shame, this dishonor, this hatred.
Everybody will also learn about my psychological problems, about my depression etc. Unlike you in your youth days in Florida, I will have no place to run away to. I can never leave St.Petersburg, and this shame and hatred and disdain will forever haunt me for the rest of my life. I might be even physically assaulted and beaten up by homophobic thugs.
If my father's business partners ever learn that his son is gay, they will stop doing any business with his company. My father's business will be ruined. I will have to commit suicide.
I can not stand being forever hated and despised. So if you love me, if you really care about me, Can you please contact the administrator of your website and insist that he deletes all my emails to you, and all your emails to me, deleted any mention of my name?
So for God's sake, for goodness sake, can you please delete all the stuff about me? I just googled my name on Google and your website immediately came up with all references about me.
As I say, I will lose my family and friends. Everybody will forever hate and despise me. I will probably commit suicide. I will have no place to hide or run away to. So can you please insist to Basil that he erases all your blogs about me, all your correspondence about me and all my emails to you?
Sound familiar? It's like America was in the '60s when I first discovered I was gay.
Only one thing to do: I wrote Basil, my administrator, as follows:
I have a huge favor to ask of you. I received an e-mail from Pietya that is very alarming. I can't bear the thought of being responsible for any harm that might come to him. It is probably a huge pain in the ass for you, but can you do it for me?
I'm sorry to ask you to go to this trouble, but I wouldn't want to be responsible for anything bad happening to him.
Basil immediately replied:
Okay, I've erased __________ from cast of characters and hidden 64 chapters with ______ and _____________ words. So the chapters are there, but no one except me and you could access them. Of course you have to enter your login and password to access them.It's ten years of RedQueen is online! Too bad that we have to do such things, but I see.
For the following week I heard nothing from Pietya, despite writing him many e-mails. Oh Christ, had I acted too late? Had he already committed suicide? And then this morning, I received an e-mail from him:
Hello my Dearest Grandfather Dane!!!
I was far away from St.Petersburg visiting my grandmother. I just returned today.
That's why I could not write emails.
Thank you so much, my Dearest Grandfather!!! Thank you so much for writing Basil and asking him to delete things. I love you even more, my Dearest Grandfather!!! Now I am safe. No one can read those entries.
I will let you know when I buy my airticket. I already tried to buy airtickets but unfortunately my debit card's payment system is not supported so I failed to complete the transaction. I will let you know when I buy the airtickets.
I will also need to pay for the hotel for at least two weeks ( 500 Euros) and apply for the visa at the Spanish consulate. ( their visa is much easier to get than Finnish one).
Again, thank you so much. God bless you.
All my love, lots of hugs and kisses
Your loyal loving grandson Pietya
We've known for some time that the melting methane in Siberia and the Arctic pose an immense problem for the air we breathe and our ability to breathe it. The following appeared on the Internet complements of Avaaz, one of the heroes of our time:
Some time ago, a scientist went on his annual tour of the Russian Arctic Ocean, checking for noxious plumes of methane gas bubbling up from the ocean. He'd previously seen hundreds of these plumes, about a metre wide each, emitting gas 50 times more damaging to our climate than carbon dioxide. This time, as he came across the first plume, he couldn't believe it. It was a KILOMETRE wide. A vast column of gas entering our atmosphere. He sailed on and found another a kilometre wide, and another, and another. Hundreds of them.
This could be what the experts warned us about. As the earth warms, it creates many "tipping points" that accelerate the warming out of control. Warming thaws the Arctic sea ice, destroying the giant white 'mirror' that reflects heat back into space, which massively heats up the ocean, and melts more ice, and so on. We spin out of control. In 2014 everything was off the charts -- it was the hottest year in recorded history.
So, dear friends, our inexorable march toward oblivion continues apace.
In my last chapter I wrote that a guy name Marty Armstrong, decribed as an “advisor to governments around the world and formerly the highest paid advisor to corporations in history” had warned of the coming debt crisis and economic implosion. Now I read that he predicts the shit is going to start to hit the fan in October.
So if the environment doesn't get us, the economy will. I just hope my social security holds out.
My money situation is beginning to smooth out and I find I actually have a little extra, so at the beginning of July via Western Union I sent my former Moscow boyfriend Misha, who now lives in abject poverty in Ukraine, $ 100. But by return email, he announced that he couldn't pick it up because he has no passport! My god, for a Russian not to have a passport is virtually like not existing! He can't go anywhere; he can't do anything!
Anyway, he asked if I could re-send it to the guy he's living with, which I did. I hope this guy is also having sex with him. Misha is a sweet, adorable kid (my god, he's now 37) who deserves a good sex partner.
We've all been watching Greece recently – Europe more than the U.S. – and now the European Union has dealt its death knell with an onerous “restructuring” that brings Greece, the birthplace of what we call “democracy,” to its knees – again.
But as usual, the real culprits, the real crooks, are not paying the price. In fact, the lead bankster in the crime against Greece, Lloyd Blankfein, is now the CEO of Goldman Sachs and raked in millions – if not billions – from what he did to Greece. Following is an Internet account:
Several years ago, Blankfein and his Goldman team helped Greece hide the true extent of its debt—and in the process almost doubled it. When the first debt deal was struck in 2001, Greece owed about 600 million euros ($ 793 million) more than the 2.8 billion euros it had borrowed. Goldman then cooked up an off-the-books derivative for Greece that disguised the shortfall but increased the government's losses to 5.1 billion euros.
In 2005, the deal was restructured and the 5.1 billion euro debt was locked in. After that, Goldman and the rest of Wall Street pulled the global economy to its knees—whacking Greece even harder.
Undoubtedly, Greece suffers from years of corruption and tax avoidance by its wealthy. But Goldman Sachs isn't exactly innocent. It padded its profits by catastrophically leveraging up the global economy with secret, off-balance-sheet debt deals.
Did any of its executives ever go to jail? Of course not. They all got fat bonuses and promotions. Blankfein, now CEO, raked in $ 24 million in 2014 alone. Meanwhile, the people of Greece struggle to buy medicine and food.
Economists Thomas Piketty (see below) and Jeffrey Sachs also have weighed in, writing in The Nation that the results of European austerity in Greece have hit the vulnerable the worst—"40 percent of children now live in poverty, infant mortality is sky-rocketing and youth unemployment is close to 50 percent."
Debt restructuring must be part of any solution for economic reforms in Greece. But the 6-month old government is leftist – socialist for the first time in many years; so instead of restructuring the debt so Greece could actually pay it, the European powers have made eleventh-hour, draconian demands: slash pensions, privatize even more core state functions, and attack unions and workers' collective bargaining rights.
What is really shocking about the deal is the way Angela Merkel and her odious finance minister Wolfgang Scheuble sanctimoniously refer to the “lazy” Greeks and their “refusal” to come to grips with their debt. Following is a revealing interview between the French economist Thomas Piketty and the German magazine Die Zeit, which lays bare the brazen and shocking hypocrisy of the German leaders:
Piketty: What struck me while I was writing (Capitalism in the 20th Century) is that Germany is really the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt. Neither after the First nor the Second World War. However, it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when it demanded massive reparations from France and indeed received them. The French state suffered for decades under this debt. The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.
Piketty goes on to give examples of moral clarity about just how Germany is hypocritical in its position of having been the perfect financial responsible citizen throughout history... But not so fast says Piketty.
Piketty: When I hear the Germans say that they maintain a very moral stance about debt and strongly believe that debts must be repaid, then I think: what a huge joke! Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations.
ZEIT: So you’re telling us that the German Wirtschaftswunder [“economic miracle”] was based on the same kind of debt relief that we deny Greece today?
Piketty: Exactly. After the war ended in 1945, Germany’s debt amounted to over 200% of its GDP. Ten years later, little of that remained: public debt was less than 20% of GDP. Around the same time, France managed a similarly artful turnaround. We never would have managed this unbelievably fast reduction in debt through the fiscal discipline that we today recommend to Greece. Instead, both of our states employed the second method with the three components that I mentioned, including debt relief. Think about the London Debt Agreement of 1953, where 60% of German foreign debt was cancelled and its internal debts were restructured.
ZEIT: Many Germans believe that the Greeks still have not recognized their mistakes and want to continue their free-spending ways.
Piketty: If we had told you Germans in the 1950s that you have not properly recognized your failures, you would still be repaying your debts. Luckily, we were more intelligent than that.
ZEIT: The German Minister of Finance, on the other hand, seems to believe that a Greek exit from the Eurozone could foster greater unity within Europe.
Piketty: If we start kicking states out, then the crisis of confidence in which the Eurozone finds itself today will only worsen. Financial markets will immediately turn on the next country. This would be the beginning of a long, drawn-out period of agony, in whose grasp we risk sacrificing Europe’s social model, its democracy, indeed its civilization on the altar of a conservative, irrational austerity policy.
ZEIT: Do you believe that we Germans aren’t generous enough?
Piketty: What are you talking about? Generous? Currently, Germany is profiting from Greece as it extends loans at comparatively high interest rates.
So Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs, Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Scheuble will continue to march through history with their austerity blankets wrapped securely around their prim ankles while the descendants of Pericles, Demosthanes, Socrates and the rest live – and die – on their day-to-day austerity diets.
So, “lord willin' and the creek don't rise,” I'll soon bring you UTD with another column.
See also related pages:
Chapt. #337 - Getting Ready for the Big Adventure [2/2]