How Lonely is Fame? Holiday Musings

I remember when I was younger and my mom would be saddened because a movie star died.  It is not that she ever knew them or they were friends or anything, but yet she always had a brief sadness at their passing.  “Sexy Rock Hudson died. I cannot believe he was gay.” “Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were the best dancers of my era, I cannot believe he is gone.” “Judy Garland had so much ahead of her; dying at just 47.  I cannot believe she took her own life.” She would say after each new passing was announced by the media.  In my childlike way I did not completely understand it. Everyone dies. And we go through stages of grief when our loved ones leave us.  But what about someone we did not know?

Now that I have grown beyond the age of my mother when she lamented these deaths, I understand her brief sadness each time it happened and her desire to relive those movies. It transports us back in time. 2016 seems like a long year of losing too many iconic artists…Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fischer, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and many more entertainers.

Most of these stars were pop cultural figures in my coming-of-age era and, in their way, helped form who I am today.   I loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I remember my teacher in grade school reading this story out loud to the class. I would fantasize that this chocolate factory really existed. I would have given anything to find a golden ticket in my chocolate bar.  Gene Wilder played a perfect eccentric chocolate factory owner. And who didn’t want Mrs. Brady to be their mom? She was so “groovy”!  I never missed an episode of the Brady Bunch. And any young girl who saw the original Star Wars series wanted to be Princess Leia. She was a role model as a female science fiction superhero.

However,  is was the musicians who forced me to reach into the depths of my soul to find the outrageous part of me.  When we are in our teens, coming of age, we tend to question everything about tradition and reach out to new ideas.  Trying to find who we are; experimenting. I cannot think of a better trio of gender-bending, sexually charged men than Prince, David Bowie and George Michael. We were young, the next generation, and these musicians helped create much of pop music for the next several decades.  The Fred Astaires and Glen Millers of the Depression era kids  and the hippie icons of the baby boomers had morphed into make-up wearing, costumed men who tackled all kinds of taboo subjects with their music and lifestyles…steamy sex…drugs…homosexuality…. bisexuality. All the while sending a message that is was okay for this experimentation.  Some radio stations would not play certain songs. And that simply fueled fans like me to want more.

Each time a new death of a musical icon was announced this year, I consumed their art in a VH-1 marathon music bender.   All so young. Taken from this earth long before their story was complete. Lives marred by drugs, disorders, secrets and fame.  And it got me to musing. How lonely is fame? I am not talking 15 minutes of fame from some viral video. I am not talking about a local TV anchor posing for a few pics with viewers when out to dinner. I am not even talking reality star fame.

What do you do with adoration beyond comprehension? One which imprisons you?  Lady Gaga said in a recent interview, “I don’t think I could think of a single thing that’s more isolating than being famous.”  The kind of fame that haunted(s) icons in their height like Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Shahrukh Khan (yes, it is Bollywood, but trust me he is big-time) and the list goes on. The paparazzi get bolder and the gossip magazines will pay more for photos and the fans demand more news. It is vicious cycle. One which creates so much isolation for the person living it.

Sure, everything is a trade-off.  Fame has it perks. For one, anything money can buy.  Jets, mansions, golden toilets, drugs. Whatever your heart desires. But can you imagine the pressure?  You are only as famous as your last great (fill in the blank….song, movie, photo, painting, performance, stage show, game winning goal, etc.). So once you are on the pinnacle, it takes even more creative genius to top your last fantastic piece.  Add to that the people who want to be your “friend” but are only in it to ride your coattails.  Your entourage of sorts.  Ready to take your money or expose you in some way. After a while, it may difficult to trust anyone.  And not know if any one is actually a “friend” anymore,

But wait, there is more to this fantastic ride of fame.  You can’t leave your house without a flood of flashes and cell phones in your face. Casual undisturbed dinner at your favorite restaurant down the street? Shopping for a pair of shoes? Going to a festival? No, forget it. All these normal things most people enjoy with anonymity just do not exist in a famous person’s world.  I have seen fans who are so bold, they will crush towards stars grabbing at them, even cutting pieces of clothing or hair, if their body-guard is not close by.  I can sympathize as to how frightening that must be.

 

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It is no wonder famous people turn to drugs (legal and illegal) and alcohol and isolationist behavior to cope. These struggles are real.  It can bring out the best of creativity, but also the worst in mental health. It makes me ponder the age-old question. Do you want to be rich and famous or have enough income to live on and be inconspicuous?

Holiday Musings. Have a fantastic future ahead, wherever your path takes you.

 

Is Life Near the Equator Spinning Out of Control? Monday Musings

Last week a friend of mine (we will call her Carla) came to a holiday fundraiser in my adopted home town in Costa Rica and later spent the night at my place.  Before she left the next morning, we enjoyed some Costa Rican coffee on the terrace and recapped the prior evening.

Carla had moved to Costa Rica from the USA with her husband approximately a decade ago. They were divorced fairly recently.  I do not know the gory details, nor do I necessarily care. Sometimes plans do not work out and it is time to make a life change.

At the event, I introduced her to a gringo friend of mine and they appeared to easily glide into a flirtatious conversation.  There are several explanations of where the word “gringo” originated. Some research says it started in Spain simply to describe non-Spanish speaking Europeans of white skin.  It was introduced to the Castilian dictionary in the latter 1700’s. gravity-gringo Another theory I have read is the word was created during the Mexican-American War. The soldiers from the USA wore green uniforms and the Mexicans would yell at them “green-go” using the English version to let them know they were not welcome in Mexico.  I have visited Spanish-speaking countries where the term is used derogatorily or as a racial slur. But in Costa Rica, is it typically used as a neutral label to describe a light-skinned expats (and tourists) from places like Canada, the USA, non-Spanish Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africans of Dutch/British decent, etc. And a native Costa Rican is a called a Tico or Tica.  A cute nickname used exclusively for Costa Ricans, but not for other Latinos.

As we sipped our coffee the next morning, I learned that Carla and my gringo friend had already accepted a Facebook friendship andgravity-facebook exchanged a bit of chatter that morning.  She asked me about his dating habits….Is he involved with anyone? Is he a bit of whore? The sort of things you question (regardless of age or experience) when you experience a potentially budding crush.   I told her I really did not know him that well, but he seemed extremely cool and authentic. And age appropriate, I added. We talked about how men can wear their wrinkles as a badge of honor. It means their years in the sun made them appear “outdoorsy and adventurous”. For some it also translates into wealth or wisdom. But for a woman? Her wrinkles are often viewed as an uncomplimentary reminder of ageing.

The coffee conversation naturally steered itself towards the odd dating situation for an over-40-year-old expat woman in small town Costa Rica.  Carla is not the first to lament this issue. I have had several strong, independent and attractive gravity-surferssingle girlfriends permanently depart this lovely region to find more depth in the dating pool.  We live in a touristy beach area with great surf and several Spanish schools.  So it is not unusual to find surfing/Spanish students and bachelor party revelers flowing though the region.  They are easy targets for one-night stands; away from home and ready to play.   There are also plenty of young Tico guys looking for a wealthy female “sponsor” and lover.  But if a gringa is looking for a permanent or semi-permanent resident, self sufficient and age-appropriate man (I am giving it is +/- 8-10 year window), it is challenging to find one here. I am not saying it can’t happen, but…..

Many gringo men immigrate here with a wife/significant other. So that takes them out of the dating pool. The ones who come alone are sometimes running from something in their home country…for example: a crazy ex-wife, tax evasion, depression, etc. Which can make ones definition of “normal” a random shade of gray.  But in all fairness, some guys just want a new adventure and retired with a whole bunch of cash.  Carla and I hypothesized these men who are alone are not necessarily looking for that age-appropriate strong or independently thinking gringa woman. In fact, many of them loved a woman like that in their previous life back home.  They are often looking for a young, hot woman. One who confirms their sexuality and makes them feel completely loved regardless of their shortcomings.  Of course this is an age-old trend everywhere in the world.  Wife number one dies or divorces; wife number two (or three) is a much younger trophy.

However, when I observe these cases happening in Costa Rica (and probably many places in Latin America) it seems to have a slightly different twist.  The younger Tica woman is almost always from a lower socioeconomic status than the gringo. And although she may not be extremely attractive (but most are), she is sexually exciting and happy to please her man.  Many of these women have not had role models to teach them worldly lessons, and they may not have had access to higher education. Some also have children from a previous lover or husband.  So they have a way of latching on (or “falling in love” as it were) in a mothering kind of way.  Washing his clothes, cooking amazing meals, cleaning his home, taking care of day-to-day dealings in Spanish and of course, having uninhibited sex with him as often as he desires (or when the little blue pill kicks in).

And yes, sometimes part of the equation is attempting to get pregnant so she will be on his eternal payroll.  For a lot of women, this is the ticket out of poverty, or at least a difficult life barely living paycheck to paycheck. I cannot blame them for that opportunity. And why wouldn’t many men want a tiger in bed and a live-in “assistant” in the home?  Plus it is a great way to learn Spanish, if he has any interest in cultural immersion. That being said, I know a lot of Latina women who do NOT AT ALL fit this mold. However, there are many who do. I understand the mutual benefits, but it leaves a gaping hole in the dating pool.

Carla and I shared stories of plenty of people we knew here in these types of relationships. And she blamed it on being so close to the equator.  I sat there nodding my head and then stopped. Whoa, what? The equator?? What did that have to do with this conversation?  Obviously the earth is wider and warmer at the equator. but is there more to it? The equatorial bulge is created by the Earth’s rotation. As lines of latitude increase in size, a point has to travel faster to complete a revolution in the same amount of time. gravity-spinning-earthThe rotational speed, or spin, at the Arctic Circle is slower than the spin at the Tropic of Cancer, because the circumference of the Arctic Circle is much smaller and a point doesn’t have to travel as far to complete a revolution. The spin at the Tropic of Cancer is much slower than the spin at the Equator. Near the poles, the Earth’s rotational speed, or spin, is near zero. At the Equator, the spin is about 1,670 kilometers per hour (1,038 miles per hour)!

That means we are spinning much faster here in Costa Rica than our gringo friends way up in North America or Europe or down under in Australia. We are closer to the sun and our gravitational pull is less. Meaning you weigh less at the equator than the poles. And it affects our tides and sea levels. Scientists and celestial students have hypothesized all these factors have an effect on animal behavior.  But does it? Or are we simply spinning out of control?

Monday musings. Have a fantastic holiday week ahead.

Photo credits: MasculineProfiles.com, SpanishatHome.com, Facebook, RioDia, Tico Times, Clarita’s Jaco, Thunderboltkids.co.za

How Many Slaves Work for you? Monday Musings

I recently returned to my home in Costa Rica from an extended 3 month “epic” road trip.  When you live a traveling lifestyle and keep multiple homes in foreign countries, you have to be organized and detail oriented. Otherwise you might forget to shut off one SIM card while it continues to suck money from your prepaid account you’re not using. Or you might forget to remove your car out of insurance “storage” and get into a fender bender on day one of your return. Or the online electric bill from your other home was overlooked and you come back to no electricity and a freezer full of rotten, thawed food.  Yep, that one smells like a week old murder scene.   Quite unpleasant!

If this lifestyle sounds glamorous, do not let it fool you.  Homes are modest, luxury goods and services  are sacrificed. Embracing a lifestyle with less “stuff” and more experiences is the key to making it a success, not necessarily a large bank account.   However, with careful planning and investing, and a desire to change your life, just about anyone can do it. But then, a “how to live your life as an expat” is an entirely different blog post.

The evening of my return to our Costa Rican home, I was catching up on some news on CNN International.   After spending time in an angry and divided political situation in the USA it was refreshing to see news about the rest of the world. Often I find the USA to be so ego-centric and self-absorbed; one never gets to hear what is happening elsewhere. It is no wonder many people cannot find Mauritius on a map or tell you who the president is of South Africa or that a cyclone is hitting the coast of India. Unless one goes looking for other news on the internet, there is very little of it in mainstream or traditional USA media.

I was catching up on Asia news and a public service announcement ran about a non-profit organization called SlaveryFootprint.org. I recall being beyond exhausted after the stress of months of ongoing travel and work.  I didn’t catch exactly what they do, but the main gist of the message intrigued me. Something must have reached down into my psyche. I jotted down their URL and vowed I would not lose the scrap of paper in my cluttered mess of unpacked (but not yet put away) supplies.

Later that week I searched for this organization.  Before reading much regarding their goals and objectives, I took their slavery survey to see how many slaves work for me. Hmmmm, I thought to myself, I don’t have any slaves working for me. This should be easy. I filled in numbers and refined details when I had the opportunity on each particular question.  Where do I live in the world? How many rooms? Eating habits? Electronics? Cosmetics? Precious stones and metals? Leather goods? Clothes?  Sporting goods? Ever paid for sex? (NO!) After a quick calculation the magic number of 52 flashed up on my computer screen.

child-slave-shine

FIFTY-TWO SLAVES? How could that be?? I do not live an extravagant life. I do not have a lot of clothes or shoes or handbags anymore and I never buy expensive jewelry.  So how could I have so many slaves working for me?

I went to their story and learned a bit more about what they do and who is considered a slave. I had read about the sex slave trade when I spent some extended time in Thailand years ago.  And I had seen the film Blood Diamond. I have also seen young children working in India on my frequent visits there.  But to realize the magnitude of modern-day slavery happening  in every country in today’s world. Frankly it sends cold chills up my spine.

From their site: “Slavery is when someone is deceived or coerced into a situation they didn’t agree to for someone else’s profit. Victims are forced to work under the threat of violence for little or no pay. They are prevented from walking away. Today over 29 million people live under these conditions. While many are forced into the sex industry, the majority is exploited for manual economic labor in the private sector.” 55% of them are women. An astounding 26% are children.

The supply chain looks something like this:  Raw Materials -> Manufacturer -> Brand -> End User. Today’s supply chain enslaves more humans than any other in history.  Your cotton shirt raw materials picked by slaves in Uzbekistan. Your sporting goods made in a sweat shop in China by a poor woman working 21 hours per day, 7 ways a week.
The snazzy new tablet in your hands needs coltan, the tableteffective capacitor. It is mined in the Congo, by – you guessed it – slaves.  And perhaps one of the most difficult for me to consider is cosmetics.child-slave-lipstick Who knew almost all of these items have mica in them? Mica gives lipsticks, nail polish, lotions, powders (and even automotive paint) their sparkle. It is mined almost exclusively in India.  And sadly, greedy Indian mining companies embrace the amount of free labor offered from poverty-stricken families with too many mouths to feed.  Those who will sell a daughter for as little as $100.

Can you imagine being a poor adult man tricked into believing you were going to work for a fishing company and thinking you could finally support your family? It is the  story of a fisherman in Cambodia.  Instead, he was violently forced to  work 20 hours a day, living in deplorable and unsanitary conditions on a fishing boat for seven years for NO pay. Or the boy in Ghana whose mother cannot afford his school fees? So she allowed him to go with a stranger making false promises about money only; to find her little boy was sold into slavery. And she would never see him again. This happens every day. child-slave-7

The truth is, it is difficult to have a slave-free life in this world today. But there are organizations like this one who are making a difference.  Don’t be guilty. Be a game changer.  You can advocate, you can donate, you can purchase products from companies who are known not to have slavery in their supply chain.  Every human being who is enslaved deserves to live with dignity.

How many slaves work for you? Monday musings.  Have a good week. Let’s make the world a better place.