THE T-SHIRT DIARIES:

Saturday February 11, 2006
I'm on vacation in California. Yesterday I visited Berkeley and the only feedback my “Ché is Dead. Get Over It!” T-shirt elicited was positive. Today my wife, Ana, and I decided to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. When we got there we parked the car and walked down the main street with all the shops and restaurants. Almost immediately, I heard my wife say “Oh my God.” And I

asked what’s the matter. She said “Look it’s Carlos Santana, eating near the window of that restaurant.”
As a bit of background, I, like many people, was a fan of Santana. That is until he showed up at the Oscars last year in a designer Ché t-shirt. He accompanied Antonio Banderas who sang a song from the “Motorcycle Diaries” on the Oscars telecast. For that, I have highlighted Santana as one of the members of the
Cult of Ché”.

So after my wife says “too bad you’re not wearing your “Ché is Dead” shirt, I said “well give me a minute and I’ll change.” We had already checked out of our hotel as we are taking the redeye back to Miami that night, and all of our bags were in the trunk. I changed my shirt and had my wife take a picture of me next to the window.

The objective was for you to see him in the picture but Ana is not Annie Leibovitz and so she took the picture from too far away. Not only that, but I had the camera on low resolution because I’m using it mainly for blogging purposes.

You’ll have to take my word on it that it’s him in the picture next to the arrow. Anyway she took the picture and I turned around for him to see my shirt but he didn’t look up. I didn’t want to be a monkey dancing in the window so we kept walking. He did look up and give my wife the peace sign as she passed 5 steps behind me. We walked for about 20 minutes and I thought to myself that I had missed an opportunity to give him a piece of my mind. I suspected that he had seen what the shirt said but wasn’t sure.

While we were walking, a clean cut Mexican American man of about 60 years of age stopped me and said “I love your shirt”. Without prompting of any kind, he said “you know what Carlos Santana did, he wore a "Ché shirt" to a concert in Miami.”

I corrected him and told him it was at the Oscars where he wore it but that I knew what he meant. He said “I’m glad the NAACP inducted him because he doesn’t want to be Mexican and we don’t want him.” He said that he knew Santana’s father, Jose, and that he was a mariachi but that Carlos had spurned his Mexican roots. We told him it was a coincidence that he mentioned Santana because he was having dinner a few blocks down the road.

On our way back to the car we passed in front of the restaurant again and Santana was still there. This time, I had taken my jacket off and stopped right in front of him and pointed at my shirt. He immediately sprung up from his chair and walked to the door signaling me through the window to wait. And there we met in the doorway of the restaurant.

I’ll to try to capture the essence of what he said in our 3-4 minute discussion but I know I won’t do it justice. My wife, who observed the entire exchange, said he sounded like he had smoked a pound of marijuana. He definitely had the “chill out man” voice going on. He was also dressed like bum, with a knit cap on has head, the kind a dock worker might wear.

The first thing he said was something to the effect of “Ché is dead for you but not for me, he's alive in our hearts.” And I told him that he’s dead and that he was nobody to worship or idolize. I said that Ché had killed 180 Cubans (that are confirmed) and one of them was the husband of my dad’s cousin (I have since learned that the husband of my dad's cousin was actually executed in January of 1961, after Guevara was no longer in charge of La Cabaña). And they didn’t get any kind of a fair trial if they got one at all.

He went on and on with “it’s about love and compassion.” I told him that Ché Guevara exhibited neither love nor compassion. He said that Ché had fought for blacks, women and native Americans in Latin America. And I asked him that if I granted him that the goal was a righteous one then do ends justify the means? Does it justify killing people? He didn’t have an answer except to continue with his platitudes in his spacey tone of voice. I told him “there’s your opinion, and there’s my opinion and then there’s facts.”

He was very condescending as if I just didn’t get it. He made some statement about “getting hung up on facts” that it’s the “spirit” that matters. He mentioned American Indians several times for some reason and he also mentioned Jesus Christ at least once. One thing he said that indicated to me that he’s totally off his nut was that in Cuba [before the revolution] women couldn’t go into the casinos. I’m telling you this guy is what my father in law would call a “space shot”.

I told him that I was one of those “crazy Cubans” that protested outside his concert in Miami. At one point he asked me my name. He also switched to Spanish for a few words a couple of times. I finished by telling him that he’s free to wear his little t-shirt and that I’m free to wear mine and that incidentally I spend a lot of my spare time exposing people to the truth about Ché Guevara. I told him that once Fidel dies and Cuba is free that the world will know the truth. He said something about nobody being free until we free our hearts. It was all very civil but it wasn’t much of a debate because I was giving facts and he was giving me slogans from the 60s.

So when I called my friend Albert to tell him about the whole episode, he asked: “What are the chances of that?”

What are the chances, indeed!
 

Friday June 10, 2005
I’m in Las Vegas as I write this.  My wife and I are taking a long weekend for a little overdue rest, relaxation and entertainment.  We flew to Los Angeles and rented a car.  As we drove across the Mojave we pulled over in a rest area.  I was reading a bulletin board about desert safety and desert tortoises when a woman walked by and told me “That’s a horrible shirt!” You might be wondering what my shirt said.  Well, it’s of my own design and it says “Che is Dead.  Get over it!” I took a look at the woman and could tell she’s a granola eating “fellow traveler”.  I told her that what was horrible was the murders that Che Guevara committed in his lifetime and how people idolize him.  My wife who had stepped out of the restroom just in time to catch the beginning of the conversation, quickly stepped in and held her own as we briefly “debated” this woman.  I was very proud of her because my wife is not political at all. 

This crunchy woman (my buddy Carlos calls these hippie types crunchy because of the granola they eat) was angry and upset about the CIA’s role in Guevara’s death.  I explained to her that he was a foreigner in Bolivia trying to foment a revolution and he got what he deserved.  I said that Guevara had been confirmed to have killed at least 159 Cubans and he’s idolized for it.  Like a typical leftist she quickly changed the subject.  “Bush is idolized and he’s killed thousands,” she said. With that she turned and walked into the ladies room.  I thought the whole episode was quite comical.  I’m sure it won’t be the last time my T-shirt starts a discussion.  By the way if you’d like to have this conversation starter of a T-shirt you get one at my Anti-Che Store.

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