CHAPTER FOUR
Still 2000
Santiago and
Cienfuegos: the pearl of the south

 

    If you're tired after that long drive through Chapter Three, you now know, anyway, that Cuba isn't just Havana surrounded by what embedded American reporters call the countryside. We were seeing a complete and relatively modern country, more like Europe than Latin America, with good roads everywhere and lots of small towns, big towns and several cities. In fact, surprise!, there are 14 Cuban cities of more than 100,000 people, and one or two others that, though smaller, look like cities to me. And all the plumbing we'd seen so far (I'm not claiming we'd seen it all) was the kind we were used to. In 2000, Cuba looked peaceful, safe, clean, healthy, comfortable, and (as far as we could tell) unoppressed. In fact, it looked exceptionally civilized.
    And now I may have another shock for you. I already knew, but you might not, that there's more than one famous world-class city in Cuba. There are two.
    Santiago de Cuba, 100 years older than Boston, is just as old as Havana and even more historical. It was already a fabled city in the swashbuckling era of Spanish conquest and English piracy. It was the capital of Cuba long before Havana. And it's where the contemporary, recently revitalized Latin American socialist revolution that your media don't tell you about began in 1953.
    My friends who'd been there before me had told me that Santiago is to Havana what San Francisco is to Los Angeles. They'd declared Santiago, ambientally, musically, culturally, Cuba's real city. People who had only seen Havana, they said, didn't know Cuba. To know Cuba, one had to visit Santiago.
    After our drive across the island, I knew there was more to Cuba than a couple of cities, and that each of the various cities and regions we'd seen was unique, so I was prepared to find Santiago to be whatever it turned out to be.
    To begin with, as we rolled out from the foot of the Sierra Maestra across an open, near sea-level shelf with a wide view from the top of the bay of the city and its setting, we could immediately see the difference between Havana and Santiago in terrain, which, to me, is just as important as any political or cultural characteristic.
    While Havana, on the northwest coast fronting the Gulf Stream a little over 150 miles from Cuba's western tip, is a fairly flat and sprawling metropolis with little topographical drama and more trees on the streets than in the countryside, Santiago, 550 miles away on the southeast Caribbean coast and somewhat less than 150 miles from the eastern tip, is a compact hilly city with views, sloping literally into a landlocked bay surrounded by forested mountains.
    And my first impression as we entered the city's back door was that, though certainly big enough to be as cosmopolitan as Havana, it didn't look as offensively modern, and, with a skyline undefiled by any of the ugly spikes that most spectacularly symbolize human architectural taste deficiency, it could be prettier. I didn't expect it's being only one fourth as big to be a defect.
    As with every Cuban community we'd entered, we were again surprised, as any experienced Latin American traveler should be, by the absence of any typical Latin American shanty perimeter. And every block deeper into town showed us another clean (if short on paint), old (but solid), apparently mostly (if not entirely) middle class (or maybe even single class) Cuban city promising to once again repudiate the US media mantra about Cuban poverty.
    But it was big enough to need some exploring to know any of that for sure, and first of all we needed to find both the 10th Street address where we were staying and the car rental place where we'd part with our car.
    Our little Lonely Planet page map showed a more complicated tangle of streets than the famously complicated Camaguay, but Matilda, tracing the crosstown throughway as we followed it across the map through a patchwork of neighborhoods lying at odd angles to each other, as our route repeatedly changed sizes, directions and names on its way to its eastern exit toward Guantanamo, found a Havanacar office right ahead of us and, just beyond that, Calle 10 (10th Street).
    We had a reservation in a home on Calle 10 recommended by a friend of mine who'd stayed there, and, bypassing the rent-a-car office for the moment, we easily found what we thought was the right address in a ritzy neighborhood near the zoo, filled with big lawns, big trees and big old mansions, many divided (we'd learn later) into flats or converted into public buildings by the revolution, but it was the wrong house.
    Sometimes, when originally separate Latin American communities with duplicate crisscross odd and even numbered street plans grow together, home addresses become competitive, an interesting feature that encourages travelers to see more of the composite city and meet more people, and the woman who answered our knock at her door seemed happy to meet us but she had the wrong name and had never heard of us. She'd met other tourists, though, and knew what our problem was.
    "This is Vista Alegre," she smiled. "You're probably looking for Santa Barbara," which she said, gesturing reassuringly back over her shoulder, was the very next barrio "por alla." She came outside and pointed, explaining that we must only go back a little way, cross to the OTHER side of the throughway we'd been on, continue to the end of the street, turn left, and keep going until we saw signs showing we were somehow still on Calle 10, and then look for her address on another house, which she was sure would be the right house. This sounded like the beginning of an odyssey, but it turned out to be just as easy as she said.
    We'd arrived late in the afternoon on the day before May Day, and the car agency at Hotel Las Americas was already closed for the day, so we met a late working gardener there and some passing strollers, all of whom took a lively interest in our mild plight and assured us nobody would be open until after the holiday. But, just as if they all actually thought of themselves as part owners of the state car agency, they told us it would be OK to check ourselves in by parking the car with the other rental cars on the lot and to inform the young man at the agency desk where and when we'd parked it when we eventually saw him, a plan we decided to adopt after settling our packs at our new home, since the two places were a short walk apart and the entire area seemed clean, quiet and safe.
    We stayed in Santiago for 5 days in a pair of tiny somewhat rustic cabins built on the flat roof of an attractively landscaped one-story 40's or 50's era bungalow that had been awarded to the retired teacher who lived there with his wife and daughter for being a good worker.
    It was about like a very nice middle-class tract home in California, surrounded by similar sized but eclectically designed houses, all much smaller than the old mansions in Vista Alegre, but a notch and a half bigger than the newer houses built by the revolution for campesinos that we'd seen in country towns on our drive across the island. The area reminded me slightly, for example, of the Foothill Boulevard area of San Luis Obispo, except that the trees were older and bigger.
    What made the house a prize was its location on a pretty, dappled sunny and shady street, definitely suburban, not far from San Juan Hill but only 15 blocks from old downtown Santiago, in a neighborhood that retains its pre-revolutionary prestige, though the prestige is more democratically shared now, partly thanks to some former residents who'd fled horror-stricken from the spectre of equality and left their Cuban homes to be seized by the government and redistributed to the very Cubans they'd wanted to keep looking down on.
    After we'd showered and changed clothes and enjoyed a get-together over a cup of coffee with the family, our hosts Ricardo and Nidia walked us to another nearby house and introduced us to their friends there who ran a tiny upstairs restaurant in their home.
    There were only two tables, easily close enough to talk between, and at the other was a small group of neighborhood doctors who were as curious about us as we were about them. We ate a kind of minced shrimp dish with cucumber salad and talked about the gradual introduction and spread of computers in the Cuban medical sector.
    I told them I thought the quality of medical care in America could be improved by replacing GP's such as themselves, especially as first aid providers and diagnosticians, with a combination of nurses, med techs and computers. They agreed that that would be a good way to go in Cuba, too, even to the point of turning a lot of minor surgery over to med techs. But they needed a lot more and better computers, one of them said, and the expertise for tying together a computerized island-wide diagnostic network.
    The next day, we went out to join the crowd celebrating May Day. Our hosts had told us the main gathering would be in a large park just past where we'd left the car and urged us to go as if they thought we'd find it exciting.
    I wanted to see the crowd and the security for myself because I'd read about such Cuban gatherings in US media which always imply the crowds are rounded up, "brought" to the scenes of celebration, and forced to celebrate.
    That's exactly how embedded media in California had reported the biggest crowd I ever saw, the July 19th 1985 Nicaraguan anniversary celebration of the 1979 overthrow of Somoza (Washington's own son-of-a-bitch, according to Franklin Roosevelt). But I'd been there and, because it was a general holiday for everyone, including public transit drivers, I'd hoofed it for several miles in the hot sun, with no shepherds, in the midst of hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans who voluntarily and spontaneously walked at random times all day from every corner of Managua, constantly filling the streets with cheer and chatter as if the walk itself was a party, and flowing in and out of the sea of people at the main lakeside plaza where they climbed up on everything climbable in order to see each other and the celebrities better or, mainly, just stood there together for hours, disorganized and boisterous but there because it was the place to be that day, waving red and black flags, some of them getting up acrobatic human pyramids, listening or semi-listening to Daniel Ortega and numerous other speakers, philosophically commenting as Nicaraguans always do, patient and amicable but never really quiet, cheering each speaker as little or as much as they pleased, even clapping politely for the US ambassador, and shouting thunderously for any Cubans or revolutionaries from Colombia. I saw very few cops that day in Managua and they hadn't "brought" the crowd and weren't bothering anybody.
    On May Day in Santiago's Parque de los Estudiantes, there weren't many cops, either - actually only a few unarmed uniforms politely (if a little officiously) guarding newly planted grass areas from trampling feet. The crowd was big but not too big and it wasn't boisterous. It was a little like an American 4th of July crowd - a crowd of little groups, some picnicking, most just meeting and visiting and, as always in Cuba, showing off their clothes. We saw a small speakers' platform at a distance without much electronic volume with maybe a few hundred people around it. The most excitement was provided by boys playing catch with cardboard mitts and limes, and a parent-powered merry-go-round, a colorful contraption with a variety of mounts for the kids but no motor, which worked fine and constantly as a squeal and giggle producer and never lacked for pushers.
    Leaving the park, we walked our map out into and across Santiago and, to slightly alter my favorite quote from Thoreau, we didn't walk as far that day as we'd ridden the day before, but it took just as long, and, though we saw less territory, we saw more details. So, unlike US reporters who follow each other around Havana in taxis, either sleeping or refusing to look out the window in transit, so they can wake up in nice neighborhoods and take turns saying, "This must be an upper class enclave," we peered up and down every street we crossed and, though they got older as we walked west toward the very old colonial downtown, until we got to the center they were mostly just ordinarily pretty suburban streets of mixed houses, yards, trees, and sidewalks like in any old fashioned American city.
    Visually, the most remarkable thing we continued finding about Cuba was how unremarkable it is. Though it may seem continental to Americans, it's not exotic - hardly worth traveling there to see, you might say, except that its ordinariness so dramatically contradicts the lying American media.
    Of course, when we got to the oldest part, between the grand central plaza (Parque de Cespedes) and the bay, the relatively small part with narrow colonial streets and paint starved old buildings, while it didn't seem as grim as Old Havana because the buildings weren't as tall and the streets were sloped and therefore more open to the sky, it did look old and dark - a historically interesting shadow on the otherwise bright Cuban world.
    The narrow old streets, tightly cramped by ancient walls may have delighted historians, and I may have shared their delight in any other country, but in Cuba I was always conscious of the purpose of the revolution, the first obligation of which is to the people, not to history buffs, so instead of seeing a movie set, I saw dark hot alleys, where people spending their holiday sitting on their front steps (to me - subjectively you understand) looked hotter than people sitting on their porches in the wider, airier streets with lawns a few blocks east.
    I wondered again, as I had in Havana, why they keep the old labyrinths and, if keep them they must, why Cuba does not emulate Spain and Mexico and lime wash all the old grey walls inside and out. I know it's cheap and easy to limewash walls bright white and keep them that way, because I learned to do it myself when I lived in just such an old building in just such a narrow street in 500-year-old San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, and I'm objectively certain that if the ancient narrow streets of old Santiago were as bright white as the ancient Mexican street I had lived on, the people sitting on their front steps outside in the shade would immediately (almost magically) look and feel hot and content instead of just hot. I guarantee it.
    Partly because the center of Santiago is so historically attractive, and partly because Matilda was not sure she'd ever return, and partly because the terrain gave us long views that made long walks seem less necessary, and mainly because it was hot, instead of spending our week there hiking, as we had in Havana, we focused on centralized tourist and cultural attractions that you can read about in the Lonely Planet tourist guide.
    We toured the jail, where many of Fidel's fellow revolutionaries had been tortured to death in 1953, the home of revolutionary hero Frank Pais, who'd died in 1957 in a nearby street in a hail of bullets, the Havana Club distillery that used to be Bacardi, and even a dollar store where (exactly as in Havana) we saw Nescafe, Pringles, Del Monte and other familiar brand names which (like us) were theoretically not supposed to be there. We squeezed into a music store on Aguilera Street already so crowded with German tourists thumbing through CD's that we could hardly get our own thumbs in, but it was a place where you could play the music, which was fun, so we bought a few discs you can't get in California, partly just to compete with the Germans, who were buying stacks. And, since there's no line at the Copelia ice-cream parlor in Santiago, we joined the Cubans eating ice-cream at the outdoor tables there.
    We whiled away some hours in La Enramada, a shady diner on Dolores Park watching as exciting a pedestrian parade as you'll see from any cafe table in the world, including flocks of uniformed kids on their way to and from school, quite a few individuals carrying cakes on upraised palms from a nearby bakery, local beauties strolling in pairs past the reviewing knots of loitering boys pretending not to look, maybe one unarmed cop in sight, and nothing at all oppressively regimented going on.
    We sat some more hours on the benches in the grand and colonial Parque Cespedes, talking to the old men who sun themselves there, and met some old musicians playing their guitars and singing for themselves and an old boxer who had once, in his youth, professionally toured part of the US but hadn't liked it, he told us, because he lost all his fights there. And one evening we talked to an old couple who were being adopted and transferred to Oregon by an American church congregation - I don't know why. They were a fairly silly old couple, who, now that their papers were in order and their plane was about to leave, were worried about going to a place with snow and volcanoes, and they wondered if we knew about that. I assured them that Oregon has snow and volcanoes and wondered to myself how much they'd miss sitting outside in the warm and beautiful Parque Cespedes in December.
    In the middle of one hot day in the plaza, we met a young man wearing a coat with the collar turned up (I swear) who didn't say "pssst" but had exactly that manner and wanted to tell us in low voiced English what he said nobody else dared tell us. He was our first and (in 2000) only dissident and wanted us to speak in nearly whispered English, too, to stymie the cops. But since the only cop in sight was over 50 yards away and, in spite of the young man's obviousness, paying us no attention, since at that moment it seemed to me that I'd talked to plenty of Cuban dissidents in San Diego (including some very loud and threatening ones), and since his idiotic manner and look pissed me off, I told him in a normal voice that I wanted to practice my Spanish, whereupon he mimed alarm, pushed his hands into his pockets, and marched quickly away like a wind-up Nixon.
    So (for that trip) we'd been on the island for 11 days before we met a dissident, and during our week in Santiago, we met two beggars, compared to one or two a day in Havana and droves in any downtown in America, and we saw no street people.
    One of the two beggars was a well dressed, apparently well educated man, who politely asked to share a bench with us in a small park in Tivoli, a colonial neighborhood that had just been renovated and repainted, then launched into an eloquent description of himself, his home, and his family, which he presently interrupted to wonder if, considering how interesting he was, we might like to pay him something for the conversation.
    The other was a woman we met on the sidewalk in Santa Barbara who said her husband was in a nearby hospital for a week, that she had to come on a bus to visit him from clear across town every day, and that she had no money for the bus home that day, so she needed a dollar.
    I knew a city bus ride in Havana that year cost one 20-centavo piece and that the Havana drivers wouldn't even change pesos. But, in fact, when we'd encountered that problem, people around us, exactly as if they had more than they needed, had eagerly pressed the right coins on us. So I told her I wished I had some Cuban change in my pocket and suggested she ask a passing Cuban, who probably would. Also, because I really wondered, I asked if she couldn't discuss her problem with her CDR, but she only impatiently waved me and my question away.
    The Casa de la Trova in Santiago is celebrated on the covers of my Cuban CD collection at home, so we went there hoping to encounter some singers and guitaristas I knew about. A woman tending the place told me that she knew two of the people I mentioned. They were old, she said, and didn't come often.
    But they'd have fit in, I thought. The band we listened to was old. The patrons who filled up all the chairs while we were looking at CD's and posters, so we had to lean against the wall during the performance, were mostly old. And most of the couples who filled the small dance floor, dancing rumbas or boleros with slow dignity, were old, too.
    A younger crowd filled the narrow street outside, looking and listening through the decorative bars of the large open windows, maybe staying outside as a courtesy to their elders who wanted the space inside, maybe enjoying a kind of action that existed outside, but probably not ducking the admission.
    Entry cost only a peso, which US media keep claiming is worth 4 cents but which will buy a Cuban more of almost anything than a dollar will buy in California - a loaf of bread, 5 bus rides, and etc. etc. including entry into a popular music and dancing club. Does that sound like 4 cents to you? I'm repeating myself because I can only tell you the truth while you're reading this book, IF you read it, while US newspapers and TV go on lying to you every day.
    We went back to the Casa de la Trova another night but got there too late for the trova show, and were ushered into another club behind it, with a bar, a younger band, and a crowd of younger patrons actually dancing acrobatic boogie woogie (or jitterbug) the way I truthfully never saw it done in the late 40's or early 50's in California except in movies and comic books.
    Because, near the end of our week in Santiago, I somehow lost a notebook (left it lying somewhere or dropped it - I don't know), though I immediately went to work reconstructing it from memory, a lot of colorful details got lost with the notebook, and, compared to Chapter One, I realize, to this point, anyway, my account of Cuba in 2000 reads like a montage of episodes.
    Spotted trying to analyze a Latinate sign beside the front door of what looked like an upper class Vista Alegre townhouse, we were invited in to tour an eye clinic, where a number of odd looking devices from Germany were carefully explained to us, Spotted spotting a primary school underway in a converted mansion, we were ordered by a teacher to stop distracting the children and go away. When an administrator at the Moncada Barracks spotted an officious guard hassling us for entering the grounds without his permission, she told him to calm himself and invited us in to show us that the former bullet-pocked police fort was now a school and the school district headquarters. And from the front steps as we left, she pointed out a block of pretty cottages across the street that, she told us, had once been officers' quarters but were now owned by a range of Cubans who had needed better homes.
    Matilda collected several more proposals in Santiago and proved her mettle for all time by never turning a hair when, just having learned at the rent-a-car office that by returning the car at the end of a one-way trip instead of back where we started in Havana I was forfeiting my deposit, I jumped to my feet, staged a Sam Spade style tirade on imitation capitalism, punctuated by slamming my fist on the duty bureaucrat's desktop, and stomped out the door.
    Outside, I realized I hadn't actually turned the car or its keys in, but I'm a teacher by trade and temperament, remember, so, rather than dampen the effect of a good lecture, I kept going, Matilda calmly and quietly following me, drove downtown to another branch of Havanacar we'd spotted on Parque Cespedes, apologized there for my explosive temper display in the first office and for having deliberately left the young man there startled enough, I hoped, that he'd think about what I'd said and report it, and then offered to surrender to their tricky small print (which perhaps I should have read but wouldn't have read in California) in exchange for their listening to my lecture, too.
    Delighted to hear of their colleague's discomfiture, they at least cheerfully discounted enough of my deposit to pay for my speeding ticket and the extra gas I'd been soaked for, and listened with interest to my explanation of the only good side of American business philosophy.
    So, Cuba, here it is for you. I think your imitation capitalist tourist sector, put up like a crepe paper front so tourists will have lots of things to buy, is the worst idea you've ever had (since it certainly causes almost all your scant crime and most of your dissidence), but if you're going to do it, you should do it right. You got one first rule of capitalism right enough - that you have to get more than you give; but sometimes you seem to miss the other most important first rule - that the customer has to go away so pleased by you and your product that he'll gladly come back to be fleeced again. Obviously, fine-print tricks to keep supposedly refundable car-rental deposit money, don't encourage customers to come back.
    Also, since I'm being very briefly negative for a couple of paragraphs, I hope by now you've fumigated your trains. I don't know because, except for the slow clunker between Santa Clara and Cienfuegos, which is OK because it's just an iron skeleton with no foothold for stowaways, I've shunned Cuban trains and have justifiably advised other potentially paying customers to shun them ever since that long night's journey finally into day, leaving Santiago at sunset (over two hours late) and finally arriving at sunrise in Santa Clara (over three hours late), that we endured with bursting bladders, thousands of cockroaches, and hundreds of constantly smoking Cubans who were not being impolite but were trying to drive some of the cockroaches into hiding with smoke and to execute as many as they could with the burning ends of their cigars and cigarettes.
    I coincidentally had Celine's novel with me as reading material for that trip, but I read it all in the station waiting for the train to finally start.
    Bueno! That brief critical outburst in a long mainly positive book detracts not a whit from my only slightly equivocal endorsement of Cuban civilization, and, as an example of my obviously constant honesty, contributes to my credibility as a witness..
    Which I'll draw on to declare Santiago, only 8 or 9 X bigger than any city, in my not very humble opinion, should ever be, one of the few more charming than appalling bloated cities I've ever seen, comparable anyway to Montevideo, Segovia, or San Francisco; and to declare Cienfuegos, which, with a population of 125,000, is only a little more than twice as big as any city should ever be, my favorite city in Cuba, where, after the nightmare trainride, a bathroom break in the picturesque Santa Clara station, and a slower but pleasanter connecting ride on the iron skeleton, a new day began.

Cienfuegos

    In Cienfuegos, our 5-day home then and my principle home in Cuba ever since then (when in Cienfuegos) was and is my favorite house in the world, Ana's Hospedaje on Punta Gorda, right in the middle of the beautiful poster the beautiful tourist booth attendant in Havana had shown us in Chapter 3. Ana's place, which is described in Chapter 7 ("Cuban Houses"), though it is the smallest house with the smallest front lawn on the narrowest lot in the single row of otherwise big-lawned multi-storied Victorians on the last narrow tip of Fat Point, though it is really little more than a 4 bedroom one-floor cottage, attractively old and worn with no space for the vegetable garden every future communist house should have, is picturesquely laid out across the narrow point between the west and east bay, and was apparently designed and built by an artist (as all houses should be).
    It's beauty would for-sure motivate any half-smart anti-communist to accuse me of "living in the dollar economy" while I'm in Cuba instead of with the "poor" Cubans, and there's something to that (though not much), but what the right-wingers don't get (because they don't want to) is that Ana's house (though exceptionally well conceived and executed) is a better example of the housing all Cubans will have (and many already do) when and if the government completes its communist dream in the future (if the future comes) than it is of the decadent past. Also, I've paid my dues in Nicaragua and Mexico, walking more muddy trails and visiting and living, too, in more shacks and shanties than you may be able to imagine, and I'm getting very old. Anyway, the Cuban government won't license the tiny few shanties in Cuba to rent rooms to tourists they have no room for. And, also, Ana, with her intelligence and revolutionary history, is one of the valuable friends and resources to whom I owe an important part of my ability to write this book.
    The carelessly permanent plan for most of humanity in most of the world is life in institutional apartment buildings (think Ralph and Alice Kramden's place in "The Honeymooners"). In Spanish, they're called simply edificios (buildings), a flat description which makes perfect sense in the context of a conversation about viviendas (homes), and they unfortunately have them in Cuba.
    Edificios, which I've encountered everywhere I've traveled, including in Cuba, thanks, I think, as much to the tastelessness of Russian influence as to the felt need in 1959 to quickly destroy all the capitalist-era shanties, have always offended and angered me. Excess-people warehouses I call them, because it's what they are. In spite of quietly but relentlessly taught and well-rehearsed human denial about overpopulation and ugly capitalist exclusion (humanity's two worst and officially best kept secret curses), high-rise human hives, like multi-tiered cages for commercial laying hens, are put up and packed with families the world over, subconsciously but certainly because there's neither space, resources, nor official inclination to provide the swollen and ever swelling lower class majority with civilized house-yard-&-garden lives.
    Instead, they're pacified by selling them the grotesque logical parody that, since upper floors must be upper class, the higher a plain ugly box rises, the higher class it must be, and that a skyline of ugly, harmonica-shaped glass and plastic spikes is beautiful is one of the most energetically sold lies on Earth.
    In Chapter 3, I mentioned my wish to visit a cluster of edificios we passed on our way out of Havana. By the time we got to Cienfuegos, we'd seen too many more, though many Cuban cities have none of at all, and we still needed to see what they were like inside. Then, when, in reference to a minimal couple of such clusters on the north side of otherwise open, airy, beautiful Cienfuegos, one of which we'd passed coming in on the train, I told Ana and Anola (La Chinita) what I thought of such shortcuts to a better life, they told me Anola's sister lived in the edificiio cluster we were talking about, that she knew all her neighbors, and that a tour could be easily arranged.

(Chapter not finished; more to come, including our tour of a major health center and of the cuban health care delivery system)
and CH 4 Cienfuegos     The Latin American word for high-rise apartment buildings is appropriately bleak - edificios, i.e. buildings - just buildings, which makes perfect sense in a conversation about viviendas i.e. dwellings. Edificios. Ralph and Alice Kramden lived in an edificio in "Tne Honeymooners." I've lived in several. You probably have, too.
    I call them
excess-people warehouses,, because that's what they are. In spite of relentlessly taught and well-rehearsed human denial about overpopulation and ugly capitalist exclusion (humanity's two worst and officially most secret curses), high-rise human hives, like multi-tiered cages for commercial laying hens, are put up and packed with losers the world over, maybe subconsciously but nevertheless certainly, because there's neither space, resources, nor official inclination to provide the swollen lower class majority with civilized house-yard-&-garden lives.
    It's easier to sell them the grotesqe metaphysical parody of logic that upper floors, being upper, must be upper class, and that the taller the plain ugly boxes (pockmarked up and down and sideways by rows of window cavities, each pitifully adorned with a useless iron grate imitating a balcony), the classier they should conveniently consider it to be.

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