miércoles, 19 de junio de 2013

THE SNAKE CHARMER IV (THE BLACK HAND, PART II) ​


Cotton & Cow Ranch
AMARILLO-TEXAS, Potter County
One year later…

The hacienda Francesco Corleone bought four years ago from the heirs of Cornelia Wadsworth is without doubt one of the largest in the state of Texas. 3,500 hectares (little more than 8,400 acres) divided into two distinct parts: a huge cotton plantation highly mechanised for trade and export on the eastern side, and a farm of over ten thousand head of cattle, mostly braford breed, on the western end.
However, the income statement for the ranch does not bring Corleone much joy despite the devotion shown by the more than one hundred workers. And what’s more, since Theo Schwann (Joe Barlow actually) took over as general foreman, the figures sent to ACE headquarters in Los Angeles, not only were far from improving, but have even suffered a slight decline instead. Nonetheless, the tycoon’s real concern is the rumours of discomfort coming from the cotton plantation employees... it seems that the new housekeeper, his former secretary Lucy Berkley, is trying to pull the strings to make her husband cover up for her misdeeds and to intimidate workers opposing her ways. This situation has made the couple quarrel more than once, although far from the hacienda personnel’s eyes. Trouble is brewing in paradise: they no longer have the idyllic relationship they had at first. In fact, Schwann, always so good-natured, gentle, fair, disinterested and collaborator, is now turning into an irascible, stubborn, capricious, unfair and intimidating man even though he has this self-imposition  of never answering her back making him look like the nobody who has been all his life.
Corleone decides then to send one of his agents to investigate the facts in situ. For this work he chooses Frank Medeiros, secretary of the Personnel Department. Looking back to his memories from his trip to India, flashback-like images come from dinner at Ahdoos Restaurant in Srinagar and the back of the plane where Lucy and Theo were sitting like two lovebirds. Led by intuition and sagacity, he calls David Huxley, ACE security chief, asks him to try to recover the recordings of the cameras inside the plane during their return from Shanghai to Los Angeles a year ago.
Frank and David are dated to Thursday at Corleone’s office. Not unaware any of them of how strict and demanding their boss is regarding to personal business, they get ACE headquarters one hour before the time set in the letter. They sit next to each other in the waiting room, but there seems not to be a very good relationship between them: avoiding direct eye contact, they just keep some idle chatting. Medeiros seems to hide the dossier carrying under his arm the same way as Huxley keeps the requested DVD recording out of view in the inside pocket of his jacket.
It’s nine o'clock and Corleone’s secretary lets the security chief in. After a formal greeting, David places the DVD in the player near the tycoon’s elegant desk and few seconds later Corleone can see on the monitor screen the scene he was so interested in: after lovingly cuddling Lucy, the snake charmer reveals his true identity. Corleone stops the video and orders Huxley to investigate Joe Barlow’s past by all means. Before leaving, David warns his boss not to rely too much on what the second man waiting outside keeps for him, for David knew about the past complicity between the former secretary and Medeiros. Francesco appreciates Huxley’s professionalism and says goodbye with a warm handshake.
After a brief pause, it’s Medeiros’ turn. He enters the office showing clear signs of anxiety: shaky hands and and beads of sweat sliding down his forehead betray his real insecurity. He leaves the dossier on the table and sits on the edge of the armchair. Corleone grabs the folder after a cold greeting and begins to read the document. When he finishes, he turns his gaze fixed and staring to Medeiros asks inquisitively “Is this everything?”. The personnel Secretary clears his throat and says “I questioned one by one all the 28 plantation workers... Miss Berkley’s and Schwann’s words are completely transcribed in the report. I reckon it’s been too much exaggeration on the whole thing... I think Schwann is a good man, unable to act as they say the accusations of the five operators marked with an asterisk... there are always quarrels and jealousies in all working teams, y’know what I mean? You asked me for opinion and so I’ve done, sir”. Corleone takes his time to answer: turns himself on his chair and looks through the window to the port of Los Angeles in the background and the skyscrapers of the WTC on a closer plane. He starts thinking of the the frantic call from an employee of Cotton-Cow the previous day, the woman on the phone claimed to be a victim of bullying by Lucy and Schwann, nothing new though the woman accused her boss of being more and more violent during the last days. Solemnly but without fuss, Corleone lets Medeiros dismiss and once alone calls his secretary to tell her to do the necessary arrangements to fly to Amarillo by helicopter the next day.
ACE helicopter lands at Cotton-Cow Ranch heliport for the first time in years. The arrival of Corleone surprises the foreman chief, who knew by radio about his boss’s sudden visit just few minutes before. As holding his cowboy hat not to get it blown away by the wind coming from the blades of the helicopter, Schwann greets his boss and asks to accompany him to the office set in one of the rooms of the colonial house on the centre of the estate where he lives with his wife. Francesco thanks the refreshment offered by one of the workers and, turning to the foreman, says, “ Well Barlow, I want you to explain to me what is happening here, and please go straight to the point”. The foreman feels even more confused when hearing his real name from Corleone’s lips, “No one but Lucy on this side of the country knows my real name” he thinks, “Have I been betrayed...?“. Noticing Barlow’s grave silence Corleone says raising his voice a little “Are you going to talk or shall I call your wife to have it clarified all at once?”. Coincidentally, Lucy opens the door and gets into the office, wearing some cowboy outfits and greeting the new comer, “Hello, Francesco..., sorry, I mean... Mr. Corleone... what brings you here, to your house?”. Her voice can’t hide her anxiety. The tycoon goes on bluntly, ”I’ve got here some information that puts your career here at risk. I’ll take the testimony of all the plantation workers listed here. I hope my suspicions don’t turn to be true for your own sake and the proper running of the ranch. I’m afraid that you have breached the trust I put on you!”. The couple start giving Corleone an unconvincing explanation full with contradictions and lame excuses and try to blame some workers calling them envious, polemical, lazy and inefficient... all those manes, however, don’t seem to Corleone to be anything else but the self description of their own total failure, not to mention the fraud clearly reflected in the ranch accounts: after close examination month by month, ACE team of economists discovered suspicious entries, false invoices to non-existent suppliers, expenses on furniture or machinery that are nowhere to be found within the ranch premises, and a long list of irregularities. The report issued by the team is devastating and raises no doubt about the couple’s administration.

Mr, Corleone starts calling the workers into the office one by one. The second in is Tania Seighmour, who can’t disguise her anguish of talking near Barlow’s presence on the other side of the room. Francesco recognises the woman’s voice as the caller’s hwo had rung him few days ago. Sobbing, Tania relates a series of outrages committed by Barlow to herself and to other of ther colleagues. Her speech is so consistent and sincere at first sight that Corleone interrupts and tries to comfort her until that finally he asks her to go out and tell the other workers that he will not need further comment: Corleone’s made his decision. He asks Barlow to take a sit in front of him and, in order to save him the shame of deeper questioning, offers him three possibilities to choose one: The first is to rescind the contract and return to snake charming back in Kashmir. The second is to stay part of the company staff but moving to Washington and spend twelve hours a day playing his flaut before the grave of his great uncle, Don Vito Corleone, in Arlintong Cemetery, to delight his soul with sweet melodies. The third is to pack his staff, as he did in Srinagar, and get out of Amarillo, but he won’t surely have the chance to go too far, since Corleone would repport him to the police anyway for Barlow was still the ony one of his former gangband whose whereabouts were unknown.
By doing this, the tycoon just meant to scare Barlow for his real intention was letting him go without repporting, and so he did when the former snake charmer turned down the first two offers.
The helicopter took off from Cotton-Cow at 8.30 pm heading for Palm Springs. That night seemed to have no end for Joe and Lucy. They ended up arguing after Barlow’s momentous decision of going solo despite Lucy’s desperate begging for staying together and trying to fix their relationship.
Early next morning. Barlow left Cotton-Cow Ranch on his Range Rover northward  to the famous Route 66. About fifty miles away from Amarillo he stopped at a roadside restaurant for breakfast. Some time later inside the restaurant, he was sipping the last of his coffee when two policemen approched him and one of them uttered the so fearsome “Joe Barlow, you're under arrest” and put handcuffs on Barlow’s wrists while the other police read his rights loud. Outside on the parking lot, the two men were helping Barlow into the police car, when the former turned his head south and thought “This is none of Corleone’s doing, he is too smart to do something like that, no doubt. My nightmare has actually come true, that boa constrictor was my beautiful Lucy...


lunes, 17 de junio de 2013

INDELIBLE IMPRESSION


The trip to Germany has successfully met almost all the expectations I had. Weather was  ghastly but the forecasts for that week had already told me so I took plenty of warm clothes not to let the low temperature be an inconvenience.

Miriam, my host in Berlin, even though her busy working schedule, has been so kind accommodating and accompanying me to very interesting places not included in tourists’ guidebooks,. The German capital is a highly recommended place to visit. It is nowadays an outstanding cultural and artistic centre in Europe: there they live many young adults, from Spain and other countries around the world; talented as well as creative men and women who have been forced to move abroad by the ruthless policy of cut-backs in their homelands. Walking through its streets and taking the efficient public transport, a tight-knit network of buses, trams, undergrounds and commuter trains perfectly synchronized to bridge the gap between places in a considerable extent city, is very enriching due to its countless museums and art activities (exhibitions, concerts, performances, etc..) one can enjoy in Berlin.

However, the most amazing part of my German tour was the visit to the wonderful city of Heidelberg. It is not too big and this may be one of its advantages: the old town is easily explored on foot. Most of the town’s activity  revolves round the university, Germany’s oldest university -founded in 1386 by Rupert I, Electorate of the Palatinate-, and which played a key role in the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther defended their theses there in 1518 and many Nobel prizes winners in almost all disciplines have come out of it, including our famous doctor Severo Ochoa.

Lots of students across Europe head to Heidelberg to enroll the university, some others are just there to learn German in its numerous public and private scools. The atmosphere is lively and all the city’s premises, from restaurants to leisure centres, keep and enviable aesthetic harmony and are beautifully and architecturally exceptional. The views from the mountains across river Neckar are wonderful, as are from Philosophenweg.

One of the reasons for my trip was visiting the psychiatric department of the Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, the university hospital of Heidelberg. A leasurely stroll through the beautiful and spacious indoor gardens and the different pavilions gives an idea of the high quality of services the pacients receive: the centre’s care programmes are in the vanguard of Europe, and its facilities utterly superb.

The whole thing made such an impression on this writer that I hope he will always treasure  and that he will be able to depict with words in the novel I shall write someday.

jueves, 13 de junio de 2013

A COMPLEXE MATTER


If we want to guarantee the proper running of any organisation there must be a set of rules nobody is allowed to break. An organisational chart is an abstract structure that shows the relationships and relative ranks of its parts and levels. Each degree is used to indicate differences in authority and responsability on decision making. The system must then move towards efficiency and in order to get it workers’ teamwork skills, training, and engagement are essential. On the other hand, the system itself must watch over the psychical and physical well-being of all its members.

The responsable body ought to carry on thoroughful and deep research whenever a misdeed or bullying is detected, and it must as well bring a prosecution and provide compensations for the victimes. If the system fails on doing so, the culprit may keep on their misbehaviour up to the point of even causing irreparable damage on some of the staff and make the company shake. The real problem arises when those responseble for their fellow colleagues, due to either negligence, incompetence, obscure secrets not allowed to see the light, complicity with the agressor, or fear of people on the former’s side... turn their heads aside, hide evidence, play down the seriousness of the facts and, in brief, just let it be with no sanction whatsoever. A good friend of mine has sent me some words regarding this matter.



COUCH-POTATO’S PARALOGISMS
Nobody doubts that the problems within Molina’s City Council Sport Department came with her. After all this time, there have been many attenps to explain this troublesome situation; neither all the attemps have been well-meaning, nor well-grounded. The thing is that on these deeply distressing times a team of so-called experts make the most basic common sense fume. Their maxims are supposed to come out of irrefutable reasoning. But insted these are the anaemic offspring of ineptitude or even bad faith. Their conclusions seem to be rational, but they are indeed far from being so, turning into mere insults.

Let’s revise some of them:

1. The whole thing isn’t but the actions of a ruthless and scheming manipulator”. This is the first rule of their mad logic. According to this nonsensical reasoning if A shouts, insults, slanders, harasses, intimidates and humilates B, it’s all C’s fault. ¡How right was the Spanish writer Unamuno when saying “there is no good fool”

2. Just human behaviour”. If in estating that our brilliant social researchers want to mean that the facts are performed by human beings and not by gastropoda, we ought to agree with their idle discovery. However, if they are talking of harmless disagreements between pals, everyday quarrels on the neighbourhood street... they miss their point. Shounting, insulting, slander, harassment, intimidation, humilation, pester, discrimination... fall withing the rule of law and are not mere social rudeness.

3. "Boys will be boys". Two irremediable lame arguments support this candid opinion. The first reason is of cognitive nature: provided that only those who know how a unicorn looks like can recognise a unicorn; the same way, only those who know and have soaked themselves with the workers’ rights spirit can tell whether these rights are being violated. The second reason links with development and personal maturing: only children play war on war rubble. Only someone rather childish can make a fairytale out of a someone else’s precarious situation when his / her dignity is in risk.

4. "There is no problem". Unfortunately the stubborn facts aren’t easy to cast away by sociological conjuring tricks. This is why an insane stale under army-strick directions will never become a legally well-regulated workplace no matter how long the nefarious incantation "there is no problem" is repeated.

5. "They are all just a bunch of lazybones", "X is an excellent person". There will come the day when the gentlemen who speak tautologies and give judgement as Olympian gods without feeling the need of substantiating and justifying their allegations, will have to provide their estatements with incontrovertible facts. May then the so-assured and hieratic safety fade away.

6. "It’s envy what moves them." Surprising at is may seem, people unable to decipher the most obvious facts in front of their very eyes brag about their familiarity with the hidden and innermost depths of the human soul.

7. "It's an extremely complex matter". This is thought-provoking and awakes an enlightening a suspicion: I've seen people agil as wildcats, self-confidence and fanatical determination running throughout the so abstruse mazes of the macroeconomics, State organisation, international law, the structure of matter and even the origin of life, get paralysed and hesitate, as fulminated by that fateful look of the Gorgona, when dealing with the most down-to-earth and nearby affairs of their neighbours. They may need the revealing advent of the Luciferian slogan, they may not recognise the familiar face of their canonical enemy, or they may use their Platonic spirit only for the archeotypical golden hights of great morals. But let’s stop now arising retorical questions about these otherwise amply clear people.


Despite of such clever deception, the facts, the stubborn and forgotten facts, don’t stop their silent course, leaving their inevitable trail of pain, humiliation, hopelessness, anger and frustration.

Time will pass, new ideas will be added up to past follies, new studies and researches will corroborate what the first research already claimed, never-seen-before pseudo-solutions will be ofered, more innocent people will be taken to court, ardent panegyrics will be delivered on the culprits, and day after day the already weak hope of beholding any good change in this labour scene   towards what it should really be: a space of equality, justice and freedom dyes a bit.