Start Spreading the News



You are now officially allowed to do what many people have been doing for years — not turning off their mobile devices during take-off and landing on commercial airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that airline passengers can listen to music, read, and play games from the minute they get on a flight until the minute they get off. The start date has not been announced yet, but it will be before the end of the year.

This only applies to U.S. carriers. Overseas airlines have to make their own determinations. The FAA in the U.S. finally came to the conclusion that the use of mobile devices does not interfere with pilot controls and communications. This new ruling has nothing to do with making calls or texting. You are absolutely not allowed to do that.

Passengers are only allowed to browse the web and check emails when the Wi-Fi network has been turned on, usually above 10,000 feet. Prior to that moment, the FAA will still requires all mobile devices to be placed in airline mode.

Personally, I am a bit relieved. There hasn’t been a flight I’ve been on where I haven’t been annoyed by a seat mate who is still sending emails or texting while we are charging down the runway. Many flight attendants gave up trying to enforce the rule a long time ago. Passengers are just getting worse and worse. They think they are the exceptions to the rule.

I fear the day the FAA approves cell phone usage during flights. There will not be a minute’s peace.

One More Day of Cuba, Maybe


After today, I will get back to talking about tech. Before I do, I have to tell you about a fantasyland we walked into in the fishing town of Jaimanitas, just on the outskirts of Havana. Our tour guide told us he wanted us to see the works of José Rodríguez Fuster, who is my age, born in August 1946, in Villa Clara, Cuba. Fuster is an artist specializing in ceramics, painting, drawing, engraving, and graphic design.

Everyone in my travel group couldn’t believe their eyes when we entered Jaimanitas, Fuster’s hometown. He turned it into a unique work of public art. It took him over ten years to rebuild and decorate the houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of all the neighbors. Fuster even installed a chess park with giant boards and tables. Watch Fuster’s video.

We might not know him in the United States, but Fuster’s art is right up there with Gaudi in Barcelona or Brâncuși in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. His work makes you happy. You don’t have to love contemporary art to love Fuster. You only have to love life.








Who Knew?

The following information was gathered by me during my recent trip to Cuba and supplemented by research on the Internet. I am always amazed about the depth of information you can get from Google. No matter how many interviews I did in Cuba to get the correct information, Google had all of the facts in one neat package. It will be interesting to see if you can tell which pictures I took myself and which ones I got off the Internet.


The last thing I ever expected to see in Havana was a hotel dedicated to the Jewish religion. As I explained yesterday, Jews are a small part of the Cuban population. Apparently the building was a textile factory before the revolution and most of the workers were Jewish. Thanks to a restoration process carried out by The Company Habaguanex S.A., belonging to the Office of the City Historian of Havana, the Hotel Raquel is a permanent tribute to the Hebrew culture and its presence in the Cuban contemporary art.

The building is completely captivating because of its Art Nouveau style, including the marble columns that rise in the hall of the entrance, an extensive roof of dark glass, and a watchtower where guests can view the streets and squares of Old Havana.

Raquel’s name is biblical for a beautiful woman, an inspiration of the Hebrew culture. The Hotel Raquel also has a restaurant of Jewish cuisine and a Judaic gift shop. How cool is that?











The Days of Rum and Cigars


Last minute photo before takeoff at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, October 22nd: Gail, Dawn, Eliot, and Lois

When Eliot and I passed through customs yesterday at Miami International Airport, one of the security guards asked us, “So how did it feel to vacation in a Communist country?”

For a moment, I felt a sense of terror not knowing what to expect next from this guy who was heavily armed. Luckily, Eliot quickly answered, “I like living here much better.” He smiled, we smiled, and we quickly rolled our luggage away from him. That was the only part of the six day trip where I felt even slightly threatened.

I woke up early this morning and received an email from my young Israeli cousin asking me how safe I felt in Cuba? Are Jews accepted there? First of all, I am no authority on politics, security, or economics. I can only tell you what I experienced.

I met a young Jewish gal in Havana who has a high level job in the arts. She told me that one of the reasons she lives in Cuba is because there is no anti-Semitism and life is simpler, better. While she would migrate to the United States were she to meet a nice Jewish boy, right now she enjoys the closely knit family and community life she leads there. She swore to me she has never experienced an ounce of discomfort.

There are about 1,500 Jewish people in Cuba, 85 percent of whom live in Havana. Most are conservative. Several synagogues are free-standing buildings; others are housed in store-fronts or other available spaces. There is supposedly one Kosher butcher on the entire island. Before Castro, there was a huge Jewish community. Now most of the offspring live in Miami, Dallas, and New York.

After talking to several young folks in the arts (our trip was all about looking for young emerging talent), I have come to the conclusion that for the time being, life in Cuba, on a day-to-day basis, is peaceful with a subtle touch of Communism. Things that are important to me (continuous access to the Internet, the ability to buy the finer things in life, and modern conveniences) are not necessarily what others desire. Those who agree with me left Cuba a long time ago or have an upwardly mobile lifestyle where they are free to travel as much as they want. Most of the artists we met who have received significant recognition from the United States or from other countries are constantly doing road shows but keep their headquarters in Cuba. Artists, musicians, and sports stars are revered in Cuba and live much better than the rest of the Cubans.

Rich or poor, most Cubans in Havana have cellphones. Texting is a big part of their lives. They also love to talk, although their calls are limited to inside Cuba. Despite what anyone tells you, Cubans do have access to the Internet. I am sure many sites are blocked, but at least they are slowly gaining access. The big problem is the cost: five dollars an hour when many Cubans only earn twenty dollars a month. That’s why most workers only access the Internet when they’re at work.

The Group




They Don’t Know Desi in Cuba


Our Cuban tour guide warned us upon arrival last Tuesday that no one in Cuba ever heard of Desi Arnaz, or his alter ego Ricky Ricardo. Arnaz left Cuba in 1934 and became famous in the United States a decade later. That somewhat disappointing piece of information was one of many misconceptions Americans have about Cuba.

The Chevy that the “I Love Lucy” show made so famous in the ’50s is one of an estimated 60,000 pre-1960 American cars now in use in Cuba. Other than some newer models infiltrating from Europe and South America, Cuba looks like a movie set with 50-year-old Chryslers, Plymouths, and Chevys lining the streets. Most of them have been repaired with Asian parts. Don’t look too closely. They are being held together in creative makeshift ways.

Americans believe that Cubans love old American cars. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cubans love new American cars, but they can’t get their hands on them. Shortly after the 1959 revolution, American automobile manufacturers were forced to stop selling to Cuba in order to conform to the embargo established by the United States. It has never been lifted.

The vintages cars, known as cacharros (translation: pieces of junk), sell in Cuba for around $10,000. You are basically buying a piece of tin for that money because the inner workings all have to be repaired. Our tour guides arranged transportation for us a few times in these precious beauties. Fortunately, a government agency or a private concern reconditioned the ones we rode in. They still lacked the safety and stability we are used to.







From My Camera Roll

For those of you who are not on Facebook, I wanted to share some of my photos. I consider them collectibles.

A friend posted this.

Former HWH staffer Meghan Dougherty visited with us recently. She is a wife, mommy of two, and author of a soon-to-be-published tween novel. Remember, you saw her here first.

The townhouses on East 62nd Street — all dressed up for next week!

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke at the 92 Street Y. We live in her district in Miami.

Dylan’s Candy Store getting ready for Chanukah.

The real Teri Garr wrote this message on a blackboard hanging in Georgio’s Country Grill on 9th Avenue at 53rd Street.

TV Watching Waning Among Millennials


Boy, has life changed since I was a young! I watched TV all the time and still do. But not the 18-to-34-year-old group known as the Millennials. So if young folks are not watching TV, who is buying all those big flat-screen TVs? Are people of our generation the only true coach potatoes?

A recent survey by The New York Times showed that broadcast TV viewership appears to be slowing down generationally.

Roughly one in three youngsters watch less TV than online videos. Some young folks claim they do not watch TV at all. At the same time, fifty percent say they watch video online at least once a day.

The Times survey said thirty-four percent of those surveyed reported watching mostly online video or no broadcast TV, as opposed to equal amounts of TV and online video, or only TV. Fifty-six percent of youngsters said they want immediate access to their choices, while forty-nine percent said they like being able to watch multiple episodes online. Another forty-four percent said mobile devices allow video viewing in places and at times they can’t watch traditional TV.

I’m Still in Cuba


Yes, I am still in Cuba. I get home on Sunday. I prepared this in advance because I wanted to share these signs with you. Most of them came from Facebook and Twitter. One or two of them were posted by Russell Simmons, who now fancies himself as a spiritual leader. I have been collecting these for a few months. For good reason, they each strike a nerve with me. They stay relevant forever.






Let Your Mouth Do the Typing


As I have mentioned before, I usually do all my writing on my iPhone. That means my right hand is always holding the iPhone with a tight grip. I’m a lefty so I hold the iPhone with my right hand and type with my left. Over the years, I think I have developed some sort of a carpal tunnel in my right arm. Actually, I’m not sure what they would call it.

The other day, my good friend Howard Stark reminded me that I could be using the mic right on the keyboard to dictate copy for DigiDame. I looked at him in amazement. What was he talking about?

I totally forgot, or I just didn’t remember. There is a mic icon on the bottom of the keyboard right next to the space bar. All you have to do is press the mic and start dictating. Your dictation will be spelled out right into the email. Remember to verbally say the punctuation marks when you are dictating or to edit after.

The reason this is so good is that I don’t have to hold my iPhone in my right hand. I need to give my right arm a vacation. I hope the aches and pains will clear up.

I know for a fact that email will take the dictation from the mic. I don’t know if other documents will because I haven’t tried them yet. WordPress, the software program I use for my blog, will not accept the dictation. I figured a way around that. I dictate into an email and then cut-and-paste.

Remember, the mic icon is right next to the space bar. You can’t miss it. Try it. It is so much fun. I could feel my arm getting better already.

Cuba Group at La Gloutonnerie



I am writing this to you on Monday night. It will get posted Tuesday and most of you won’t read it until Wednesday. Eliot and I went out with five members of our Cuba-bound group tonight for dinner before all twenty of us meet at the plane at 6 am Tuesday morning.

This fancy French restaurant in South Beach, Florida, was selected because everyone heard that the food in Cuba is awful. We chowed down.

Several of us admitted that we packed lots of snacks. Eliot packed sixty bars of Medifast, so we are totally covered. I am willing to bet that Eliot and I will love the food. We were also told that no matter how much we dress down, the Cubans will know we are tourists. I am not sure what that means, but I’m planning to wear my typical black and gray attire.

Of course, the discussions at dinner focused on no cell or Internet activity for the next six days. That is not stopping any of us from bringing our gear. Everyone wants their camera rolls with them so they can sneak peeks of their grandchildren and pets. It was also interesting to hear how some folks had loaded their tablets with movies while others had downloaded books to read.

I am not exactly sure when they think we will have any time. The agenda is jam-packed with art hunts, visits to art studios, art lectures, and visits to the homes of artists. The entire tour was put together by an art organization from Provincetown, Massachusetts, affectionally known as P-town.

I plan to take a lot of pictures on my iPhone, so at the first sign of a wireless connection, watch out!

Till then . . .