The Savant of Calle Ocho

As dominoes slid across other tables at the club off Calle Ocho, Gabriel Iglesias rested his elbows on his empty table ready to show off his skills.

Mr. Iglesias, a 71-year-old, white-haired retiree in sneakers and khaki walking shorts, may not have had game this day, but he did have something else to boast about.

“I can tell you anything about the presidents.”

Starting with Washington, he rattled off a chronological list that included how and where presidents died and facts that sounded stripped from a daily desk calendar.

“Andrew Jackson, his wife taught him to read...”

“Ulysses Grant. He was a drunk. As a president, he was lousy.”

“Garfield, assassinated in a railroad station in Buffalo.”

He continued, cackling and slapped his knees.

“I know all these details! You feel like I should go to jail for this right?”

“Ah…Nixon. I’m getting to the end,” he says, scrunching his nose and looking to the sky.

“And, Carter!” he laughs. “Not even his mother expected him to be president!”

He wrapped up with Bush and then asked for a test on the state capitals. But don’t ask Iglesias, a Cuban, about his native country. “I’m up to my hair in stuff about Cuba. But, in American baseball, ask me anything.” --Janine Zeitlin

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Frank Houston