Which I interpret as “be careful about the things you say.”
I’ve never seen anyone get away with anything, in the sense that every thing you do and know it to be wrong will come back and haunt you. It’s a sobering thought.
Let’s take one example that is annoying like a loud radio in the apartment upstairs.
Greta Thunberg is being coached by Greenpeace’s Jennifer Morgan who attended Davos along with Al Gore. Greenpeace is funding. For me Greta is a confused child, who belongs in school. She flew to the Canadian province of Alberta just before the elections trying to convince people who work in the oil fields to quit their jobs.
The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, embraced the same ideals we are listening to in the rising trend of socialism and climate change. Pot came to admire the tribes in Cambodia’s rural northeast. He saw these people were self-sufficient and lived on the goods they produced. In trying to force society back to a rural commune, there was a mass starvation that become known as the Killing Fields.
In our times there is some humor in these shenanigans – a climate conference started in Madrid (COP25), so Greta sailed to the port of Alcantara to save energy. The captain of the yacht Nikki Henderson was in Great Britain at the time and had to buy a plane ticket to join with them and command the eco-yacht on the way south.
Woody Allen said that you need a delusion to make your life work and it looks like the climate change crowd has found one.
I don’t understand it and I don’t like things that I don’t understand.
In analyzing any input from the outside world, the brain has two hemispheres to handle it – the right hemisphere is on the look out for predators, the left is on the lookout for prey. You may put a nicer definition on it, but you get the idea.
It’s the same with hands, the left performs exploratory motions, and right is grasping and evaluating.
In essence the right hemisphere acts like a highly efficient bureaucrat handling the input from the left. One works on facts, the other on emotions.
There is a big resistance to that attitude, we see it in all sorts of public forms; we don’t trust people ability to think through things. The mania around artificial intelligence (AI) stands for the proposition that humans aren’t supposed to think too much. We want machines to be thinking in the world where humans have little intellectual agency.
We don’t trust rationality, we maybe believe in the wisdom of crowds and in some form of mechanistic process, but we don’t believe in the mind.
That is the raison d’existence of the AI, but it will add nothing, because well-lived life requires making choices and choosing sides, we just need to be brave enough to do so. And use the right side of the brain to make decisions.
I will slow down now.
It’s raining hard and it’s dark outside, I opened the windows because I like the sound of the rain - it fills up the space and brings me closer to the elements.
And then I heard that somebody out there was playing Paganini Caprice on a violin. The music is remarkable to me because it's built like a conversation - it starts low, then goes up, pauses for a bit for a heated exchange, then it all goes down in flames, and finally it reflects on things and goes back to where it started.
And you don't need one word to understand it!
Canada it is.
I lost my Canadian passport, or somebody lost it for me at the Geneva airport (you know who you are), and for a few days I felt like a man without a country, even though I was still able to travel.
I have more than one passport and can move around, but a Canadian citizen I am, proud and attached to the great country.
Take this picture in:
And don’t make me start with pictures of Toronto; they would take your breath away.
Back in Geneva, Swissport said that my passport has been located and it is with the police. When I signed for the little blue book I was as happy as a teenager with a girlfriend who just whispered: “Boy, you are my star”.
And I do like the European experience, but not for the obvious reasons. I like motorcycle riding here; I like some of the food, Spanish mostly, some views in Ticino, highways with no speeding cameras (Germany and Italy…ahem, tickets never come from there), don’t like European TV – I just don’t get it.
In Canada, and in America in general, the business is booming. They got over the 2007-2008 crisis in a way the European financial system never did or could.
You may say they did it in a cowboy style, but it worked – in the darkest hour, the bankers and Federal Reserve officials got together on one Sunday afternoon in Manhattan, broke God knows how many laws, decided to pump fresh $700 billion into the banking system and the next day the country was open for business.
You can’t do it in Europe, for this would mean money crossing borders, north to south – politically unacceptable.
There is a good story related to the 2007 crisis that just came to my mind. Many people consider it a Lehman Brothers event, but the bank where it all started was Bear Stearns, also one of Wall Street finest.
Now, let’s move back another 10 years or so from that date. The (in) famous Long Term Capital Management ran by two Nobel laureates and Chicago University professors made a huge leveraged bet on Russian bonds.
Enter the Bank of Italy, (there is a connection, just wait) which was trying hard to meet the requirements of the coming Euro zone (this is 1998) but they couldn’t pass the grade, in terms of debt to GDP, so something had to be done. The Finance Minister of Italy at that time was a guy named Mario Draghi, you may have heard of him, advised by Goldman-Sachs. They told him that these LTCM guys produce annual returns in the 40% range (true for a while). Draghi told the Bank of Italy to “lease” gold (the number of 400 metric tones is floated around), which means selling it in the market and invest the proceeds in the Long Term Capital Management. Shortly thereafter Russia defaults on its bonds, LTCM goes down in flames and Italy is out of its gold and its money.
To keep things quiet, Goldman Sachs bought Draghi’s silence by making him the chairman of G-S International.
Then an interesting meeting took place among LTCM investors, with a simple agenda: how much haircut we need to take to bail out the firm. Bear Stearns wouldn’t have any of this and they just walked out.
In 2007 they got their payback and the company was absorbed into JP Morgan for a few cents on a dollar.
At the end Italy did make the Euro membership – it’s a 3rd largest economy in Europe, impossible to roll out the project without them, and Mario Draghi went to an even higher post. They call him Super Mario for a reason.
Woody Allen famously said that every hundred years or so, somebody presses a button and a big toilet flushes, everything on the earth changes and a new set of characters comes in. We may be getting close to that.
Either way, you can find me where the life is a beauty; just look at the picture again.
I will be riding.
I was marveling the Sirkeci train station, once the final destination of the Orient Express train from Paris. It is located on the tip of Istanbul's historic peninsula next to the Golden Horn bay.
It is a touristy place today, with many old style boutique hotels for passengers from the days gone by, as the station is hardly used anymore.
Five times a day the mu'azzins call for prayers from minarets that are all around, and they are synchronized and don’t shout over each other.
Up to four minarets around a mosque mean it was founded by a regular Pasha (still country’s elite), more than four of them means it was paid for by the royal family. It’s also reflected in the size of the mosque, in a big way.
The Muslims here coexist with Christians and Jews – there are more than 2200 active mosques, but also active churches and synagogues.
Then something stroke me in the Blue Mosque – the Islamic religion is full of symbols, and the great ones relate to flowers.
God, the Creator is symbolized by a tulip – single, strong stem, great beauty on top. When praying, the position on the carpet puts the tulip under your heart.
The prophet Mohamed is symbolized by a rose and it’s scent.
There are no paintings in a mosque, there is no personification of God as a human, but there are great flower displays in the city, especially in the spring. God is in the beauty of nature.
It’s an interesting place, Istanbul – by far most powerful city in Turkey, but not the capital, which is Ankara, five hours drive east, into Asia.
The choice is easy to understand – Istanbul lies on both sides of the Bosporus strait, an ultra important waterway, and it has bridges connecting Europe with Asia. In case of any conflict it will be an immediate target, so it’s not wise to locate vital government functions there.
Istanbul is a mix of East and West, sometimes not easy to navigate, but intoxicating still, with a good vibe. I liked it.
The imams, who lead the prayers, are all men, not different from the Christian religion.
I have realized why there never would be a female pope, by the way.
Women always find things and men loose things.
Men lost the Holy Grail some centuries ago, and the last thing you want is a woman pope opening a cupboard somewhere in the Vatican and saying – “here it is!”
You can see that I have been thinking lately.
Constantinople, as the city was called before, was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire in 1453, after a vicious 55 days battle. To be fair, Mehmed II and his army were remarkably restrained in their handling of affairs after the fall of the city.
For Europe, the exodus of many Greek scholars to Italy as a result of this event marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance.
Guess its a kind of win-win for all of us.
Snapping back to the current day, this piece of news has caught my attention lately,
Just can’t sit, no?
The switch to electric cars is taking its toll on luxury automakers. Mercedes announced it will slash more than a 1,000 jobs, including 10% of management, in efforts to cut $1.1 billion in costs by 2022.
EVs have yet to generate big sales volumes for premium manufacturers, per The Wall Street Journal (translation – there is no money in making them even though EVs require less components). Daimler’s new chief said efforts to meet tougher fuel EU efficiency standards are also likely to dent profits for two years.
How did he come up with two years time frame is not immediately clear.
But more important is what was left unsaid. If Daimler is struggling, Audi and BMW are too – they all operate in the same reality.
Call it a triumph of EU bureaucrats over business sense, killing us slowly.
For now – life will find its way.
I woke up one morning and before the coffee kicked in I found myself driving south on highway A8 towards Monte Carlo.
I called my wife and she asked, “where are you?”
“I am going through Puy de Sancy.”
“Is that a nasal infection?”
“Take all the time you need,” she said, “really.”
So I drove, crossed the Italian province of Liguria, went into France and checked in a hotel by the seashore, half empty off-season. The lady at the reception spoke perfect English with a sweet French accent.
“I am sorry if I mispronounced your last name,” she said looking at me.
“No, you said right. “
It’s a nice place, Monte Carlo, not a big city, literally as small as London’s Hyde Park.
Ruled by a prince, not a parliament, isolated from the world, just looking at the life from the outside, very different from the rest of Europe.
If Monte Carlo is my definition of normal, then we live in interesting times.
Outside of it the nationalist movements are taking hold, wherever you look, pretty much in every country in Europe, but this is how the world normally is. We return to a time when nation state is dominate, when economics are important, but no the deciding factor. There are always nations that are rising and nations that are falling and the natural process of conflict evolve. Nothing new under the sun.
We have declining nations, China is one (the massive protests in Hong-Kong wouldn’t happen if it was growing), Russia is a pale shadow of what it once was. Japan is raising, stable and strong in all aspects including military (second largest navy behind the US, it can project power all over East Asia and there is nobody to stop them). Turkey is taking control of the Middle East, - historically when the region was stable, it was because of Turkey, and their influence lasted for centuries. They managed things good. The Americans are going home, closing military bases all over the world. They will close the CENTCOM in Kuwait next year because there is nothing left to command. We will miss them, no? Just look at the pathetic NATO, what do they mean without the Americans? The Yankees provided stability for a long time but it’s over now and the old demons are coming to the surface. How do you think the Poles feel about the Germans, or the Koreans about the Japanese? There is no love lost there, just pure hate. And when you pray for rain, you need to deal with the mud too. There was never a century in Europe without a major war.
In Monte Carlo I parked my car in the center of the city – I’ve been here before and I knew my ways.
It was a sunny afternoon and I sat on a patio with the view of Casino Royale and Hotel de Paris. Palms, sun, striking women and great cars all around me. But what really stroke me was how green it is here in a very relaxing way.
“Gin and tonic, shaken, not stirred”, I said to the barman. I need to be driving but later.
A two door Rolls Royce drove by with Russian license plates, then another one, looking the same. McLaren 720 was next, but I am too old to get in and out of the low car, so not for me. Then a Ferrari Roma roared by, a beautiful thing.
All not for me, get me a Jeep Sahara, black on black and I will be the happiest guy in the world.
I am a simple man, to which my wife says that I am not.
I like the simple life, can’t help it. You give, you get, that’s what I learned in my 50 years on this planet. But sometimes somebody helps you beyond that, and you never forget. A sweet woman makes the world turn.
Now I am looking at her as she steers ice in the glass with the elegant finger.
When the economics go bad, we become vulnerable to bad ideas.
After the 2007-2008 financial crisis (from which Europe never recovered, just look at the stock performance of their banks) the idea of diversity took root and is spreading throughout the corporate world.
The premise of it can be summarized as follows: nobody would possibly say that young girls and boys differ only in some physical attributes; there is clearly way more to it.
Nevertheless, the theory goes, as they enter adult life they become exactly that - same.
In a broader sense, we are moving from women and men complementing each other, to competing with each other.
Christine Lagarde, ex-IMF boss, currently running the European Central Bank, went as far as saying that the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which collapsed during the financial crisis, would perhaps be still around if it was “Lehman Sisters”.
No Lady, it wouldn’t – spike in repo rates killed Lehman, as it killed another giant investment bank, Bear Stearns.
For me diversity is one of the great fruits of liberalism. The trouble is, that we’re now trying to make the fruits the foundation of it.
Then there are trends that look promising, but the issue is how to handle the outcome. Take AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is basically software that writes itself. An example of how it works was a chess match between Gari Kasparow and IBM’s Deep Blue machine.
Kasparow won the first game, but the machine learned, reprogramed itself and won the second one (IBM didn’t allow Kasparow a re-match after.)
Problem with AI as it advances is that it will replace human work. This is what Elon Musk had to say about it:
There will certainly be a lot of job disruption because what’s going to happed is robots will be able to do everything better than us. Something like 12% of all jobs are in transportation. Transport will be one of the first things to go fully autonomous.
This dilemma led to the invention of Universal Basic Income (UBI), and that is a bad idea, basically giving people money for staying at home. It’s diminishing and demoralizing.
Fortunately, some bad ideas fade away before they manage to absorb too much of our energy. One example is Blockchain. It came into being as the backbone of Bitcoin, and it was touted as the beginning of a new era, a breakthrough comparable to industrial revolution or the internet. To borrow Eddie Murphy’s line from “Trading places” – unbelievable, first Moses and now this!
Blockchain is basically a distributed ledger that updates all records simultaneously, coding any volume of information into defined length of characters called hash, just as with document files that can be “zipped”. An obvious application would be keeping municipal records for example, and so some cities on the US East Coast tried for about a year and finally dropped it frustrated, in a “life is too short for this” kind of attitude.
If Blockchain was not useful for such a basic application, then it’s really not worth thinking about.
Let’s finish with a good idea.
As we’re moving towards Worldwide Income and Wealth tax, it is useful to know that most developed countries signed the CRS (Common Reporting Standard), allowing them to see and tax your assets worldwide, with two notable exceptions: USA and Thailand. US will not snitch on its citizens, and Thailand wants to be a nice place for retirement.
For Europeans concerned about the staying power of the Euro, and the Eurozone itself, and for people who simply don’t like being followed, moving some of the liquid assets to the US seems like a good idea.
Simply put, the US is the best place to have a bank account now.
* Note: Literary website NFReads posted an interview with me about my book "The Traveler". Below is the link:
A famous play written by Tennessee Williams, with the action set in New Orleans, in the French Quarter.
It was Marlon Brando’s big break as an actor, when it opened on Broadway in 1947.
In the play he was Stanley Kowalski, a Polish character. One of the critics wrote this about him: "a tiger on the loose, a sexual terrorist … Brando was a brute who bore the truth."
The fascinating female character was Blanche DuBois, a former teacher who fell on hard times. In the end Blanche suffers a mental breakdown and collapses to the floor. When the doctor helps her up she goes willingly with him delivering the famous line: "Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
As for the streetcar, Desire is the name of the street where the route ended; crisscrossing New Orleans it represents Blanche's own vagrancy and her inability to adjust and settle down.
A few years back I had my own Southern experience and it was a memorable one.
I was running a construction project down there, flying into Atlanta and then driving west to Chattanooga across the Smokey Mountains on the East Coast of the US.
The difference between these two states is that Georgia is mostly arid and Tennessee is green, so it’s more than just crossing the mountains, sometimes in heavy rain, it’s a different reality.
Tennessee is South pure, laid back and relaxed. One summer evening I was sitting on a restaurant patio sipping beer and looking at the row of big Harleys parked in front. At one point a shiny big fire truck with a crew passed me just cruising casually down the street, windows down and elbows out.
“Well,” I thought, “shouldn’t these guys be at the station on constant alert?”
It’s different here.
Several bloody battles took place in this area during the Civil War, which was the high conflict point for a split nation, and it took a lot of violence to sort out.
Not the last conflict of course - during 1967 Detroit riots, the US army 82th Airborne Division was called into the city to restore order. Over 40 people died.
So, the split today in American politics is nothing new, just different in intensity.
There is media frenzy now, criticizing president Trump for allowing Turkey to invade the Kurds.
Apparently there is still little understanding of which way the world is moving – as the Americans are reducing their presence in the Middle East, Turkey becomes the dominant power in the region. The Turks were a loyal ally to the USA since 1945; but in the recent years they’re pulling apart and tying their relationship with Russia.
It is crucial for the US to keep the relationship going, and so president Trump looks the other way as the Turkish army crushes the Kurds.
It’s not nice, but it’s geopolitics, and as the president he has to make decisions.
Brutal as it sounds, he is making the right one.
In those Chattanooga years, on the way back to Toronto I would stop in Atlanta in a club called “Cheetah” for a dinner, some drinks and entertainment.
The men’s room attendant was of Jamaican origin, impeccably dressed.
His name was Stanley.
“How do you like it here?” I asked after I put my tip in the jar.
“Let me put it that way,” he said with creole accent – “if I close tomorrow a lot of people would suffer. “
Coming back to the Streetcar Named Desire, it could be that Blanche DuBois’ character was based on Tennessee Williams himself, with his inability to adjust and settle.
He found an audience.
I’ve lived through a few coups. They’re insane and terrifying, like watching sports, except your future depends on the score.
In 1981, when I was a kid in Eastern Europe I woke up on one frigid December Sunday and there was no television, no radio but tanks on the street.
The army took control of the nation and they didn’t let it go ever since.
The military is always the most powerful force in any nation, a good thing to remember – these are the guys with heavy weapons.
Back then schools were closed for weeks and a curfew was imposed. Anyway, I was never a TV fan and we had only two channels at the time, the second one being a bit fuzzy.
These were happening times. Just over the border, in Russia, when the KGB in 1991 tried to reassume control of the crumbling Soviet Union by placing Mikhail Gorbachev under arrest and attempting to seize Moscow, logistics ruled. Boris Yeltsin’s crew drove to the Russian White House in ordinary cars beating KGB coup plotters who were trying to reach the seat of Russian government in armored vehicles. Then Yeltsin realized that he needed a strong man to rule.
His name is Putin and he is in charge ever since, following the greatest rule of them all: if you want to beat a Grand Master at chess never let them make the first move.
Back to current happenings - the problem as I see is that democracy is truly dead, people are no longer willing to accept it.
Recently pro-Brexit British MPs had to be escorted to Parliament by police to protect them from violence.
If you think that our society is progressing – it is reversing. We’re witnessing plain intolerance rising on a massive scale.
The very purpose of civilization is when everyone comes together to produce a society that is greater than the sum of individuals. We have lost that purpose for now.
The Canadians voted in national elections October 21.
The vote breakdown is not encouraging - the Liberals lost every seat they previously held in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Canadian system is splitting along provincial, economic, demographic and ideological lines, and there is no one in the Trump administration who likes Justin Trudeau personally, ideologically or politically.
Alberta has the means and motive to destroy Canada. Washington has the means and motive to destroy Canada. And the likely format of the new Trudeau government is providing the opportunity.
Back home, on a lighter subject, I was driving the BMW the other day and it is insanely fast, a pleasure. I was looking through the back window and thought: “is there a Mercedes G-Class behind me, or am I dragging a garden shed?”
“You’re good”, said my younger son, “its just the square Mercedes”.
“They call it ‘folded paper school of design’ for a reason.”
Then I was staying in Warsaw over a sunny weekend, in a Sofitel hotel just across the big plaza from the imposing presidential palace. The hotel used to be called “Victoria” back in the day, and I still like the old name better. It’s possibly the best place to stay in town, if you want my recommendation.
I walked into the posh reception and the girl behind the counter spoke English with better accent that I can ever do.There was delicate music around and I knew right away what it was: Jealousy Tango with Katica Illenyi playing the violin.
"I love tango," I said to the young woman.
"There are no mistakes in tango," she said. "If you're tangled up, you just tango on."
"This is a great advice, young lady."
A topic that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, is the demographics of nations.
In a "normal" economy there's a set balance of roughly four children to three young adults to two mature adults to one revered elder.
So long as that proportion held the economic system had stable characteristics: young workers spend and borrow, mature workers invest, retirees shift their financial holdings into something less volatile, like government bonds. But it doesn’t look like this anymore – the population is aging in most developed world except the US.
Which is why you can buy a 30-year US treasury bond with a yield of about 2.5%. Try to get that in Japan or Germany.
Moreover, the replacement level is 2.1 children per family. Look for countries that miss the target big time. Russia is one, China another. Their demographics simply collapsed, which means that if they want to realize their ambitions, they need to do it now.
In Europe, the risk is that there is no true rule of law. On the one hand, there is this policy of no bailouts for that would mean money crossing borders north to south. Then there is the rising wave of nationalism and socialism and hatred of the rich. These two possibly feed each other.
One thing is certain – Europe will do whatever it has to do, shy of doing the right thing.
Take Great Britain as an example of dysfunctionality, the country doesn’t really have a constitution, which makes Brexit negotiations such a protracted mess.
Meanwhile, they’re the biggest market for German cars in Europe and should have the upper hand in any negotiations. The Germans are totally dependent on their customers.
Still, the real action of our times is in the Middle East.
From 2003 until 2018 the region’s powers were non-functional: Iraq and Syria had civil wars, while Turkey was gun-shy. The fact that ISIS Caliphate lasted as long as it did was a testament to how abnormal the region had become. Well, Turkey is now invading and it will burn everything to the ground.
President Trump tweeted recently that he is considering putting economic sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member. This piece of news takes some effort to unpack, Turkey and the US have been pulling apart for three decades now. The Turks have interests in the Balkans, Persia, and the Levant that have nothing to do with American interests. Turkey is reasserting itself as a major regional power, and since the American military position in northern Iraq and Syria are largely dependent upon supply routes through Turkey, there is no long-term American strategy without Turkish assistance. That assistance now has been removed, so the Americans have no choice but to leave, upset anyway, hence the tweet.
To be clear - with the exception of the French, no European power has the capacity of independent power projection to the region and the US just doesn’t care what happens there the way it used to.
Closer to home, on a sunny Tuesday morning I went to the garage, took the cover off my big black motorcycle and rolled it down the driveway.
Took the tiger dust off the fuel tank with my right arm.
It started at the first touch of the button with a deep staccato that scared birds off the trees.
The big engine shook when I kicked it down in the first gear, and I said: “we’re going North.”
I need a dose of normal, otherwise all the words are going to bleed from me and I will think no more.
There is a development in the markets that will ultimately impact all of us - the rates charged by commercial banks on items like car loans and credit cards carry a huge spread to the official rates targeted by the central banks (at least times 10, for good borrowers).
Interest rates were always free market, and now the central banks are trapped. About 30% of the bonds issued by governments and companies worldwide are trading at negative yields, which is about $17tn of outstanding debt. This means you loose money if you hold them to maturity.
The scheme works like this: say you hold a $100 bond, maturing in one year with a coupon payment (interest) of 3%. At the end of that year you will be paid $103 by the issuer. But the bond is trading in the market for $110. This means that whoever holds it, needs to get rid of it before it matures, or he will loose money.
Trading these bonds is a game of musical chairs and nobody thinks twice as long as the rates decline. This is possible as central banks buy government debt, if they stop and even slow down, where is the bid going to come from? The rates in the real world show that there is a shortage of liquidity, which makes perfect sense – with low interest rates you need to spend less and save more for retirement.
The European Central Bank is in the 10th year of Quantitative Easing, meaning pumping fresh money into the economies, and they have failed to reach their inflation targets. They are not even close.
One more thought to close the topic – in many countries pension funds must invest into the negative yielding government bonds (the proportions vary). Which means a guaranteed loss – it simply just became another tax.
Now, to the good side of life. I had a nice lunch with a friend of mine, who looks like the actor John Goodman who just skipped a meal.
Rumor has it that he owns the legendary dress Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang that famous “Happy Birthday” to JFK.
Actually I just made it up, but I think it may be true.
He held up his glass of red wine at the end, looking at the great river and said:
“if this is not nice, I don’t know what is.”
In an unrelated thought he said: "I enjoy fake science. If a piece of news starts with the sentence “according to a recent study...” I am listening to the whole nonsense with enthusiasm."
That was after he finished the wine, putting him in philosophical mood.
“Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind – the race is long, and in end it’s only with yourself.”
“What do you think?” he leaned over the table.
“About the nature of this conversation or the nature of you?”
“Take your pick.”
“There is only one rule in this jungle – if the lion is hungry, he eats.
It’s called life.”
“Exactly”, he said, “we’re all in it. Working hard to eat, not to be eaten.”
“Women make it right”, I said.
“Life wouldn’t be bearable without them, hell if I understand how they do it.”
There was a good story about a flight to New York when lighting hit the plane in the air. Bono, the one of U2 fame, got up and walked to Claudia Cardinale, who was sitting not far.
“God just took a picture of you,” he said.
And he was right, because it was so worth it.
CC is a great actress and a beautiful woman; she was in 142 movies so far.
Truly Italian in looks, character and temperament, still sweet after all these years (she started her career in 1958).
I have a weak spot as a man and as an art lover.
Now to the movie from the title of this essay.
“When you hear a strange sound,” Charles Bronson said to her in the scene by the well, “you drop to the ground.”
“Like how,” she asked.
“Like that” he dropped a cup of cold water.
And after the ordeal was over, she realized – “he can not only play the harmonica, he can shoot too.”
And she was the only woman in the movie full of rough men and she made an impression on everyone.
Here is another great line from this movie:
“Your friends have a high mortality rate, Frank.”
He looked and the Harmonica man, finally starting to be afraid.
It took him a while to say it:
“And you’re making the appointments…”
Charles Bronson was a Lithuanian-American actor, born Charles Dennis Buchinsky, and he learned to speak English when he was a teenager; before that, he spoke Lithuanian and Russian, which are close languages, and as a Polish guy I can understand them both pretty well. Small world.
When Bronson was 10 years old, his father died and he went to work in the coal mines.
He said later that his life was tougher than the characters he played.
My move to the wild West happened a long time ago and I consider Toronto home ever since. It’s a great place to be, North America - land of the free. Nothing beats it.
So much different than Europe.
Which is why Sergio Leone went to America to deliver his life performance, as did Roman Polanski with “Chinatown”.
Milos Forman came here too, to make his “Amadeus”.
For a while I was not sure how my European affair is going to play out, but sitting on a fence it’s a dangerous course, you could even catch a bullet from the peace-keeping force (Dire Straits song).
So, I am going to take a 777 across the ocean and ride my big motorcycle there until the snow stops me. I’ll be in the big wide North typing my next essay.
Man’s got to know his limitations, but they appear in the body, not in the mind.
The mind is stronger - I went to hell and back lately, but I am back, so it appears that the devil loves his children. One of them is me.
I may be around for a while longer, writing more essays.
Let’s get back to thinking about women - they make the life worth living.
Screw the recent diversity theme in the press, like, were we all just born yesterday?
Who just woke up?
Don’t teach me what I already know.
Women are sweet, and loving and smart and I don’t need a policy, official Communiqué,
to tell me that.
It’s in my blood, I am not a lonely man.
Claudia C. and Catherine Deneuve are charming women from times gone by.
I may be old fashioned and I enjoy a great old wine too, plus a vintage Ford Mustang, all done up. And I like my music slow and strong.
Take that from an Eastern man.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler