Tag Archives: Refugee Ban

Cannibals, Hallucinations, and Tyrants

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Day Two in Madrid, spent in two big museums: the Prado and the Thyssen Bornemisa.

But first, I have to mention that Lynn was stressed out about how we would get to Granada.  Lynn is usually quite unflappable, so I figured it must be kind of a big deal but trusted that she would figure it out.

I realize that may sound lazy.  I have to admit that after all the planning I had done for Italy and Malta, I had kind of zoned out and let Lynn do all the work on Spain.  I listened with half an ear while I lounging on my hotel bed, scrolling through Facebook.  So I may not have this all exactly right, but apparently getting to Granada would be complicated and a long journey with a higher than preferable chance of getting stuck overnight in a tiny village that might not have any lodgings.

“I booked a train, but we have to stop in a small town somewhere, get off and take a bus to an even smaller town, and then take another bus because there’s construction on the line or something,” Lynn said.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I responded.  This is one of the cons of traveling with someone—you can put all your faith in them, then wake up, too late, in a fleabag motel in a remote dusty village in nowhereseville, Spain. That’s pronounced no-wheres-vee-ya, by the way.

“We leave at nine in the morning and don’t arrive until nine at night, if all goes according to plan—which it looks like it won’t.”

“It’ll be an adventure!” I said absently, which was probably annoying.

“I’m just going to check flights,” Lynn said.  Twenty minutes later we were booked onto a Ryanair or some other cheapo airline flight that would get us to Grenada in half an hour.

This had finally got me engaged, since it would cost money.  Lynn wouldn’t tell me how much the flights were, beyond “dead cheap.”  Then she cancelled the train/bus tickets so she could get her money back, which made me feel better.

“Right!” she exclaimed with relief as she flipped her laptop off.  “On to the Prado!”

I had scoped out the Prado online before the trip and had a couple artists in mind that I wanted to check out.  Like Francisco Goya—I had seen this painting in one of my Spanish textbooks and wondered what else he had done.


Not surprisingly, most of Goya’s other paintings were dark and creepy too.  After all the Madonnas and baby Jesus’s I’d seen so far, I found then refreshing.

There was a room of Caravaggios which I slunk through quickly, and three rooms of El Grecos.  I had heard of El Greco and, maybe because I was raised in a Catholic milieu, seen his painting of St. Peter a million times.  It’s not at the Prado, but here it is to give you an idea of his style.


I had never realized—duh—that El Greco was his nickname, probably because his real name was Doménikos Theotokópoulos and no one in Italy or Spain, where he lived most of his life, could pronounce it.

I knew nothing about Hieronymus Bosch, who turned out to be the most thought-provoking artist on display.  I could have spent days studying his Garden of Earthly Delights.  Here is just one of its dozens of detailed scenes:


Doesn’t it remind you of Salvador Dali?  Except that Dali painted in the 20th Century, and Bosch painted this around 1505.  Was he taking hallucinogenic drugs?  Was he mentally ill?  Or was he a very “outside the box” thinker?  If so, how is it that some people can do that?

Finally, to satisfy my obsession with all things related to the Tudors, there was this portrait of Queen Mary, Henry the VIII’s daughter, otherwise known as Bloody Mary.


Ugh, scary.

The Thyssen Bornemisa Museum was across a roundabout from the Prado, were this banner was displayed on a government building.  I’d love to see more of this in the USA right about now.


The End of America

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Before I move on to Spain, I’m inserting a few real-time updates.

It’s weird to be writing about the November election almost three months later. I recall my sense of unreality.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed. I can’t believe we are now using the words “President” and “Trump” together.  I am still in a state of denial, maybe because I haven’t figured out what to do, or how to live, in this new world.

I went on the women’s march in St. Paul with 100,000 other like-minded men, women, and children to protest the new administration’s policies and tone.  It was the first day in months I felt optimistic, but also, sadly, the last.

Conservatives think that liberals hate America.  That’s unfair.  We criticize our country when it acts wrongly.  That doesn’t mean we hate America.  It means we hold it to high standards.  For instance, one thing that has always made me proud of America is all the refugees we take in.  It’s not as many as 100 years ago.  It’s not as many as Germany.  Still, we were on track to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017, with about 10,000 slots designated for Syrians.  That’s one of the things that makes America great.  Oops, made.

All that is on hold for four months.  If and when it restarts, the number of refugees will be cut in half.  Syrians will be banned, along with people from other Muslim-majority countries except the ones Trump want to make deals with, like Saudi Arabia, the main producers of terrorists, including 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

Why is Trump fixated on Syrians?  I don’t believe there have been any terrorist attacks perpetrated, anywhere, by Syrians.  In my opinion, Syrians are victims of war and terrorism.  But there are a lot of Syrian refugees, and they are in the news frequently, so maybe they’re just an easy target.  Most Americans haven’t heard of Tunisia, which actually produces a lot of terrorists.

The mood where I work, the Center for Victims of Torture, is dark.  Our clients in the US are afraid they’ll be deported, or that their families will never be allowed to join them.  We wonder if we will lose our government funding, and thus our jobs.  We worry this administration will return to the use of torture, which is illegal under US and international law.

There’s so much going down.  One final item: Donald Trump managed to talk about Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews or antisemitism.  Was it intentional?  Ignorance?  As a Jew, I think it’s ominous. The Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers, it started with nationalist words and laws against certain groups and bullying of the media and control of the messaging coming out of government agencies.

Thanks for reading this.  You probably already knew most of it.  Now you know why I write about travel and not politics most of the time.

My son and I went on a small adventure recently.  He had asked if I wanted to see John Cleese in person on a certain date, and I said, “sure!”  John Cleese is an English comedian and actor best known for the Monty Python movies and Fawlty Towers TV series.

What I didn’t realize until after Vince bought the tickets was that the show was on a Monday night, five hours away in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  So I took two days off work, got a room at EconoLodge, and we went on a road trip.

It was really fun.  We joked about the cheap hotel and the terrible steak dinner we had at Texas Roadhouse.  We visited Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers football team, which fits nicely into the neighborhood unlike our own new US Bank Stadium that looks like the Death Star.

We watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then listened to John Cleese tell stories for an hour.  Did you know Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin financed the making of the Holy Grail, and that George Harrison paid for the Life of Brian, which he considers the troupe’s best film?  Cleese is almost 80, and still full of piss and vinegar. It was good to Just Laugh.