Friday, September 25, 2015


Steve McGarrett speaks English?  Hawaii Five-0 is in color?  Who knew?

My love affair with television began while I was still a kid growing up in Colombia in the early ‘70’s.  Television there at the time consisted of three channels, all in black-and-white.  All U.S. shows were clumsily dubbed into Spanish, mostly in Mexico.  Apparently the dubbing budget was quite limited, as Steve McGarrett, Frank Cannon, Archie Bunker, Barnaby Jones, Arthur Fonzarelli, Theo Kojak, Columbo, and many others sported suspiciously similar, slightly Mexican-accented voices.

My favorite show from that era, which still holds a special place in my heart, is the original Hawaii Five-0, which, in the U.S., ran on CBS from 1968 to 1980.  In English.  In living color.  In Colombia, not so much.  So one summer (I wish I could remember exactly what year) my parents brought me to the U.S. for the first time.  Of course the first thing I did when we got to the hotel room was turn on the TV (a Zenith, with a Space Command remote!).  And it was in color!  And everyone spoke English!  Amazing.  But that was during the day, so the game shows, soaps and reruns were unfamiliar to me (not for long, of course).

The real shock came when I saw the gorgeous (and, in my view, still unmatched) Hawaii Five-0 opening theme (which, to the approximately 10 year-old me, was the best part of the show), in full, glorious color.  No over-zealous announcer sullying it by yelling out the opening credits in Spanish (“Con la actuaci√≥n estelar de Yak Lorr como Estiv Magarre”).  The rest of the show also in color.  And English, not Spanish with a slight Mexican accent, coming out of McGarrett’s (and everyone else’s) mouth!

It was surreal.  It was enlightening.  I knew right then and there that this magical land where the cars were huge, the TV shows started on time, and television was what it was supposed to be, not some vandalized, mangled version of itself, was the place I ought to be.  Fortunately, my dream came true just a few years later, in 1978.

I thought of Hawaii Five-0 today while texting my kids about our dinner plans for tomorrow.  As I typed the place, date and time, it just came to me.  “Be there.  Aloha.”  At the end of every Hawaii Five-0 episode there was a montage of scenes from the next episode, and Jack Lord himself would end the montage with those words.  Be there.  Aloha.  Getting a bit nostalgic, I browsed over to the show’s IMDB page, where nostalgia quickly turned to melancholy:

Jack Lord, who played Steve McGarrett, died in 1998.
James MacArthur, who played Dan Williams, died in 2010.
Kam Fong, who played Chin Ho, died in 2002.
Herman Wedemeyer, who played Duke, died in 1999.
Harry Endo, who played Che Fong, died in 2009.
Zulu, who played Kono, died in 2004.
Richard Denning, who played the Governor, died in 1998.
Leonard Freeman, creator, writer and producer: died in 1974

Every key person associated with my beloved Hawaii Five-0 is gone.

Obviously this should not have come as a surprise.  The show first came on the air forty-seven years ago.  What did I expect?

But still, all of them?

Guys, I'm so sorry you can no longer.  Be there.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

My Pleasure

If you say “gracias” (“thank you”) in Mexico, chances are you will get “de que?” (literally, “for what?”) in return; a self-deprecating response that implies, “I did nothing,” or, “whatever I did, it’s not worthy of gratitude.”  More prevalent in other Spanish-speaking countries is “de nada,” literally “of nothing,” or “for nothing,” meaning “it was nothing,” again, seeking to minimize the action prompting the expression of gratitude.  The French “de rien” is literally identical to the Spanish “de nada.”

The most frequent Italian response to “grazie” (thank you), is “prego,” a fascinating word with many different meanings depending on context, but whose meaning when used in response to “grazie” is “please,” as in “please, how can you possibly even think of thanking me.”  Similar to “de que?” “de nada,”  and “de rien,” “prego” seeks to diminish the value of the action taken by the person receiving the thanks.

Those outwardly humble, self-deprecating responses to gratitude have always bothered me a bit, for two reasons. First, although sometimes it may be appropriate to convey that the action taken was really no big deal, many times that is clearly not the case.  Second, the responses not only minimize the action, but also take issue with the gratitude by deeming it superfluous.  “Why are you even thanking me,” they seem to contend.  If someone thanks you for something, does it make sense to argue about it?

In most English-speaking countries, the most common response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome,” short for “you are welcome to my help.”  I feel more comfortable with this response because it neither minimizes the action nor takes issue with the gratitude.  Whether the action was simple or difficult, “your’e welcome” means, “count on me, I’ll help you anytime.”  The Spanish “a la orden” (or “a sus √≥rdenes”) is similar, meaning something like “I await further orders”, or “I’m at your service.”  

My favorite responses to “thank you,” though, are “my pleasure,” (or “with pleasure”) and the equivalent Spanish “con gusto.”   The sentiment they convey is that, regardless of the ease or difficulty of the action taken, the person thanked enjoyed being of service to the thanker.  Not “I did nothing,” or “the action is not worthy of gratitude,” but instead, “to help you brings me pleasure.”  “My pleasure” diminishes nothing, does not take issue with anything, and pays a lovely compliment to the person doing the thanking.  

So, thank you for reading.  I hope it was your pleasure!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gaby and Marc

So we’re having lunch at Dr. Limon (best ceviche I’ve ever had).  In addition to our meal, we order a few items to take with us.  Gaby, our waitress, presents the bill, and says “I’m sorry, the to-go items came out on a separate bill.  I apologize for the inconvenience.”  No big deal, I think to myself.  But then I notice that the bill for the to-go items shows a different server name, not Gaby’s like the bill for the served items.  I ask Gaby why that is, since she served us and brought us the to-go items as well.

“Actually, to be honest, I put the to-go items on a separate bill because I didn’t want to inflate the lunch total.  It wouldn’t be fair for you to base your tip on the total amount.”

OK, so Gaby, proceeding under the assumption that people generally don’t add a tip to to-go items (false assumption in my case, but not relevant here), didn’t want to include those items in our lunch bill lest I overtip by figuring the gratuity on an amount that includes to-go items.  She would rather forego the possibility of more income to herself than, in her view, either trick or guilt the customer into paying a higher tip than he normally would.  And, had I not asked about it, her act of professionalism and generosity would have gone unnoticed.

I was touched by Gaby’s actions, particularly in light of the Kim Davis farse.

Davis is, of course, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk recently jailed for contempt of court after defying a federal court order by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, maintaining that she is against gay marriage because it goes against her religion.  Grandstanding, opportunistic demagogues Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, predictably, jumped to Davis’ defense, citing her “religious freedom,” and actively participated in a repulsive, cringe-inducing demonstration upon her release from jail.

Few things upset me more than people who preach “religious freedom” while advocating its exact opposite.  Ms. Davis, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Huckabee, if you frown upon same-sex marriage due to your religious beliefs, that’s fine, don’t marry anyone of your same sex.  Nobody’s making you do that.  But why do you believe that you have the right to impose your own faith on others?  How can you not understand that “religious freedom” means that everyone has the right to live in accordance with their own beliefs?  Their own, as in, not yours?  To you, and others of your ilk, “religious freedom” applies only to those who share your particular beliefs.  You are pushing for an American Theocracy.   Your notions are “frankly unAmerican, and belong more in Riyadh or Tehran than in Washington, DC.”  You are Ayatollah wannabes, as dangerous to America as Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

Now we come full circle to Marc Ambinder, editor-at-large for The Week and contributing editor at The Atlantic.  In his column today, Ambinder argues that Davis was treated unfairly by Judge David Banning, who threw her in jail for contempt.  Ambinder:

I find the government's conduct more offensive to my sense of justice than I do Davis' refusal to comply with the law. And I say this as a dude who had to wait years to marry another dude.

In any moral universe, her crime should not justify a total deprivation of her civil rights.

Unlike Kim Davis, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz (and so many others), Gaby and Marc Ambinder are able to step outside of themselves and see things from an objective perspective.  They understand other points of view.  They look after the interests of others, even when those interests conflict with their own.  They strive to say and do what’s right, period, full stop, not necessarily what benefits themselves.

Too bad neither of them is running for president.