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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Flamenco In The Time Of Moonlight And Mobsters

Once you get past the improbability of both novelist Ernest Hemingway and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover being in Ybor City in 1932, you're ok. If you adopt what philosophers call "a willing suspicion of disbelief" and accept time travel, you'll find this book by local writer David C. Edmonds to be a fascinating read.


"Flamenco in the Time of Moonlight and Mobsters" begins on Halloween night of 2019 in Pinellas County's Brooker Creek Preserve --where that overdeveloped county actually has saved nearly 9,000 acres of Florida wilderness.  Our protagonist accidentally runs into a sinkhole, suffers a concussion, and emerges into the world of 1932 Ybor, where everyone believes that she is her grandmother. 


Grandma was a flamenco dancer, and Hemingway had been among her lovers.  He and his current wife (he had four) leave town, but other people have serious grudges against "Carmen."  She is targeted from both inside and outside the law, as both mobsters and FBI gunmen repeatedly try to kill her.  Prohibition, of course, is wildly violated; socialist cigar workers are in their recurrent state of revolt; and factory owner Don Ignacio, another former lover, demands that she dance high on a lector's platform, making her a perfect target.


Meanwhile, her old abuela plays supernatural tricks that she cannot predict nor control.  There are kidnappings and murders and brothels, and with the possible exception of the doctor who saves her life, no one can be trusted.  She makes one getaway by crashing a streetcar on 7th Avenue, and other action also occurs in familiar places -- indeed, her meals at the Columbia and at Centro Espanol made me hungry.  I'll not give away the end, but I'll say that the book is well worth turning the pages. 


Published by St. Petersburg Press, this is one of several novels that Edmonds has written – but he also writes non-fiction.  He has the unusual combination of having been a member of both the Marine Corps and the Peace Corps, and he has earned degrees from several prestigious universities, including a doctorate in international economics.  His Amazon bio makes it clear that he lived in the Washington, DC area, and we are fortunate to now have him in our neighborhood.  And, of course, you can order this book and his others online.




Knowing that it would be a wild weekend for traffic -- a three-day one with Valentine's Day on Friday and President's Day on Monday -- I didn't leave Hubby's bedside at the VA Hospital until after evening rush hours.  Earlier in the week, though, I learned something from the nurse of that day, a middle-aged African-American woman. 


Every morning, nurses write the day of the week and the date of the month on patients' wall charts, along with the personnel assigned that day and other information.  Hubby can't see this detail from his bed, so I regularly read it to him.  On Thursday, February 12, I reminded him that this was Lincoln's birthday.  He nodded his head in agreement -- but this was a surprise to the nurse standing nearby. 


It turned out that she never had heard of Lincoln's birthday, much less of George Washington's birthday, which is February 22.  I suppose she was educated in a school where history wasn't honored, at least not with black students and the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.  But when Hubby and I were elementary-school children, both were acknowledged.  They were not paid holidays for adults, though, especially in Southern states:  even a century after the Civil War, many Southerners still were uncertain about Lincoln. 


But in 1968, Congress moved to standardize national holidays and create three-day weekends.  Just two remained singular dates:  Independence Day, July 4, and Veterans Day, November 11 (previously Armistice Day, the 1918 end of World War I).  May's Memorial Day, September's Labor Day, and October's Columbus Day all became three-day weekends, and when Martin Luther King Day was added in 1983, it too was designed for a three-day weekend.  King's actual birthday was January 15, but acknowledging it on the third Monday of January also was a handy way of separating it from New Years, just two weeks earlier. 


New Years and especially Christmas have their origins in religion, and they remain exceptional as federal holidays that are by date, not day.  Probably because Easter always is on a Sunday, it never has been a paid holiday.  Thanksgiving, in contrast, is a paid holiday for most people and is designated by day, not date.  As an incentive for earlier Christmas shopping during the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving.  Although officially limited to Thursday, unofficially it soon became a four-day weekend, especially for students and their teachers. 


No one said so, but the beginnings of these long weekends coincided with the women's movement: NOW also began in 1968.   Congressmen may have seen that with more women in the workplace, families needed more opportunities to do things together, but it was primarily business, especially travel-related businesses, who soon made three-day weekends part of American life.




A few federal agendas still list "Presidents Day" as "Washington's Birthday," but there is more than a little irony in that:  because February is the only month with 28 days, the calendar insures that his true birthday, February 22, never is on a Monday.  And even the date of February 22 itself is debatable because the calendar gods changed time back in the 1700s.  According to the Julian calendar in use when he was born, his birthday was January 11; the Gregorian calendar, adopted in by Britain and its colonies in 1752, changed it to January 22.


So there are lots of reasons why the third Monday in February should not necessarily be Presidents Day – to say nothing of the distaste that many of us have for seeming to honor the Current Occupant.  I've got a suggestion:  let's switch it to Susan B. Anthony's birthday, which was on February 15, 1820 – two hundred years ago last week.  The holiday still could be the third Monday of February and would rid us of the hypocrisy of honoring some embarrassing presidents. 


Anthony would have loved that.  Especially she aged, she encouraged her followers to celebrate her birthday with fundraisers in Washington – even selling slices of birthday cake as souvenirs.  She also urged (indeed demanded, as she was no shrinking violet) that her organization's annual conventions were held during the week of her birthday.  Her stated reason was that Congress was in full session then, but she was astute enough to know that drawing publicity to her 70th, 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays created a helpful image for the former schoolteacher and her cause.


As it happened, Anthony's successor, the Reverend Doctor Anna Howard Shaw (yes, both medical and divinity degrees) was born on February 14.  Valentine's was not yet the commercial holiday that it is now, so her birthday presented another fundraising opportunity.  She never was nearly as popular as Anthony, however, and especially after annual conventions moved away from Washington in February to more clement times and places, Shaw's birthday never caught on.


Although I really don't like the idea of honoring just one person among millions, I think it's time for women's organizations to follow the model that African Americans created with Martin Luther King.  Millions were involved in that movement, too, but a single person makes it easier to grab public notice.  For decades now, feminist organizations have pondered the question of a proper holiday, and it doubtless will come up again on August 26, when we celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment that ensured our vote. 

An August holiday has been rejected largely because most schools are not in session – and a major point of holidays is their teachable moment for inculcating heritage to young heirs.  Schools are starting sooner now, but I still think that February is better.  Let's follow up MLK Day on the third Monday of January with SBA Day on the third Monday of February.  (And no, unlike what my spell checker thinks, SBA does not stand for Small Business Administration.)




·      I keep the TV in Hubby's hospital room on CNN or MSNBC to serve as a brain stimulus, and thus see the news headlines whether I want to or not.  I noticed recently that the ID label for Bernie says, "I-Vermont."  He's still claiming to be an Independent, while running for the Democratic nomination?  Just who does he think he is?  No woman would dare to so defy the party she expects to choose her.

·      Have you noticed the silence surrounding the nomination and Florida?  Our mail ballots are in hand, but I've not received the first bit of mail from any presidential candidate.  Nor a phone call, thank heavens.  But it is mysterious.  In other years, most candidates were here for the Democratic state convention in autumn.  Many opened offices then that stayed open until the primary in March; indeed, I worked a headquarters for Michael Dukakis from October 1987 through March of 1988.  This year's election is less than a month away, and I've not seen as much as a bumper sticker for anyone.  What's going on?



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