TV Land

Fidel! Quick turn on the TV news!"
"What is it? Can't you see I'm watching the autographed copy of Titanic that Leo gave me last year."

"Please, Fidel, it's important."
"Okay, okay. What station?"
"Try Channel 10 out of Miami."

"Are you kidding? You want me to turn off Kate Winslet to watch Dwight Lauderdale? Nikita Khrushchev has more passion than Dwight Lauderdale, and he's been dead for twenty years."

"Okay, then try Channel 6. You like Tony Segreto."
"Only if it's a sports story. Tony's good with sports but he's just not convincing doing hard news. Is it a sports story?"

"No."
"Sorry."
"Channel 4?"
"Bryan Norcross! You've got to be kidding."
"No, Fidel, he's only doing the weather now."

"When did that happen? Why wasn't I informed? For cryin' out loud, we've only got about a gazillion spies in Miami. You'd think one of them would let me know that Norcross was off the anchor desk."

"How about I turn on Channel 7?"
"Is Rick Sanchez going to be squatting over a floor map? Every time I see him do that I have these terrible nightmares. I dream I'm walking down the street on a beautiful summer day and all of a sudden it starts to get dark, and when I look up, the entire sky is filled with Rick Sanchez's ass."

"How dreadful."
"It's huge. And it's moving toward me."
"Is it wearing pants?"
"Is what wearing pants?"
"Rick Sanchez's ass."

"Of course it's wearing pants. Do you think I dream about Rick Sanchez's naked ass? You're missing the point. It's huge. It's a big ass! And just when I'm about to be crushed ..."

"Crushed by Rick Sanchez's huge, pants-wearing ass."
"Right, I wake up screaming. It really freaks out the bodyguards."
"Is that why that guard, what's his name?"
"Lazaro Betancourt."
"That's right. Is that why he defected last month?"
"I think so."

"I have an idea, Fidel. Cover your eyes for a moment while I make sure Rick Sanchez isn't squatting over anything."

"Okay."
"You can look now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes."
"You're not playing a trick on me?"
"No, Fidel."

"Because if I see Rick Sanchez squatting over a map, hell, if I even see him doing a deep-knee bend, I'm going to be really, really mad and I'll have you killed."

"Don't worry."
"I'm serious. I'll have you shot."
"I know."

"Okay, then. Just as long as we're clear, I'm going to look now. Oh, and don't forget to log this into my Nielsen ratings book. What's this? Why didn't someone tell me we were sinking rafters today? Hey, that one guy with the fire hose is pretty good. We should give him a medal. Make a note of that."

"But Fidel, those aren't our people."
"What do you mean those aren't our people? They're scared, emaciated, desperately fighting for freedom -- of course those are our people in the raft."

"No, no, no, Fidel. I wasn't talking about the rafters, I was talking about the guys with the hoses. Those aren't our soldiers. They're part of the United States Coast Guard."

"Why is the American Coast Guard sinking Cuban rafters?"
"I don't know?"
"Where is this taking place?"
"About 150 yards offshore."

"ACono! Scramble the fighters! Where's my brother! How in the hell did we let the Americans get so close to our shores?"

"No, Fidel. It's 150 yards off the American coast. Near a town called Surfside, over by Miami Beach."

"Let me see if I got this straight: The American Coast Guard is trying to capsize a raft filled with Cubans 150 yards off the coast of Surfside?"

"That's right."
"And they are doing this on live TV, with everyone in Miami watching?"
"You got it."

"Screwy Americans. Holy cow, I think that Coast Guard guy just maced that poor fellow in the water."

"Wow."
"And they call me a despot."
"I can't believe this."

"They shouldn't be treating Cubans like that! Only we can treat Cubans like that. We should send a letter of protest to that annoying Madeleine Albright. She's always carping about human rights. Let's see what she has to say about this. Maybe we should get the United Nations involved."

"Look they're trying to swim for shore."
"Go, baby, go!"
"This is great TV."

"Now, if they had something like this on TV Marti I might not block the signal. It's just all capitalistic propaganda. But this, this is dramatic stuff. It's really cinema verite. Sort of like Cops."

"Bad boys, bad boys ..."
"... what you gonna do."
"Look, Fidel, one of them made it to the beach."

"Okay, now this is the thing that I don't get. What's so special about reaching the beach?"

"Well, it's all part of that immigration agreement you have with the United States."

"Explain it to me again."
"To stop the flow of rafters leaving Cuba, the United States agreed in 1994 to return any Cubans caught at sea. In return you allow 20,000 people a year to lawfully immigrate to the United States through a visa lottery program. The whole idea was to promote orderly, legal immigration from Cuba to the United States so people would stop risking their lives making the dangerous trip across the straits. But here's the tricky part. If someone makes the trip anyway, and lands on U.S. soil, then they won't be returned to Cuba."

"So if they get picked up 150 yards off the coast, they get sent back to Cuba. But if they reach the beach, they get to stay in the United States."

"That's it exactly."
"How many made it to the beach so far?
"Two."
"And how many were picked up in the water?"
"Four."
"That's gonna piss off a few people in Miami."
(HOURS LATER)
"Hey, Julio, bring me another Diet Coke."
"Here, Fidel. What did I miss?"

"They still got the MacArthur Causeway shut down. They've surrounded the police station in Surfside. And there are reports that people are starting to block off a highway in Hialeah."

"Why don't they just call out the police to disperse them? Lob in some tear gas. Fire a bunch of rubber bullets into the crowd. Something."

"I'm not sure. In the beginning I thought that was exactly what they would do. I figured the cops would be just as stupid as those fools on the Coast Guard cutters. But the police are showing restraint. Damn it, why aren't the police making the situation worse? We could have had a full-scale riot out there. Where's Rudy Giuliani when you need him?"

"Americans and their silly right to protest."
"At least there'll be a backlash in Miami by the gringos against the Cubans for protesting."

"I thought all Americans supported the right to protest. It's in their Constitution."

"Nah. Americans are fickle. They support the right to protest as long as it doesn't inconvenience anyone. Besides, a lot of Americans are arrogant enough to think that only people born in the United States have the right to protest."

"America, love it or leave it."
"Exactly."
"You know, Fidel, that's sort of our motto here, as well."
"America, love it or leave it?"
"No, I meant, Cuba, love it or leave it."

"Cuba, love it or leave it in a tiny raft! I like that! We should get bumper stickers printed up."

"Say, what's going on?"
"Looks like they've announced that they're not going to repatriate those four Cubans they picked up in the water. The protesters won. Which is exactly why I'm not a big fan of protests."

"Heck, this isn't fun anymore."
"Wanna watch the rest of Titanic with me?"
"Sure."

"You know, it's a good thing the Coast Guard wasn't around to rescue the survivors of the Titanic. They probably would have turned their fire hoses on the life boats and then maced Leo while he was in the water."

"Good one, Fidel. Good one."

jim_defede@miaminewtimes.com

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