—“Numa,I will always bet on you…You can’t lose—you’re the sheriff’s horse in this race.”
Thus spoke our late mentor and friend Professor Dr. Heraldo Tavella (using that most affectionate soubriquet he used with yours truly) when I met him in December 1982 to accept the plane ticket to the USA that he had bought for me. He loaned me those critical funds, which were readily paid back some time later, and enabled me to start my longstanding medical career in this country; I duly acknowledged his noble gesture in the preface of my upcoming book. Gracias Gran Heraldo!
What he was referring to is an ancient saying from the countryside of Uruguay and Argentina where there have always been occasional illegal horse racing and betting that has been tolerated by the authorities, especially if they have an interest in it. In those little agribusiness towns, the figure of the “comisario” (local police chief) towers high above all the rest as he/she has a big influence in all local affairs. Most of them are gifted horse riders, a needed skill in the vast expanses of these countries.
Our dearest uncle José Luis—recently deceased due to the Coronavirus pandemic—had a coffee and tea business in La Paz. Montevideo, and he regularly visited his loyal clients in the countryside to deliver his goods in local groceries and markets. In many of those trips, we gladly accompanied him, an always exciting adventure. When we visited a little town in the department of San José, we found such a race.
There was an impromptu racetrack in the outskirts with plenty of public and several riders. Right before a race, we parked our van and strode briskly to the assembly.
—“Find out if the sheriff owns one of those horses and bet all our money on it.”
I raced to the makeshift betting booth and quickly asked what my uncle had told me. The clerk pointed at an old wrinkled and flea-infested mare that could hardly stand.
Shocked, I went back to my uncle and detailed the sorry physical state of that horse.
—“It does not matter…Do as I say—put all our money in that mare’s legs. Go!”
Obfuscated and grumbling, I skedaddled back to the booth and plonked all our monies.
The bell rang. In the first dash, all the colts raced forth and the mare was left behind. The race entailed there round turns at the track; I steadfastly refused to watch it. Until the very last leg when I turned around and I saw an unbelievable spectacle. All of a sudden, the hectic race seemed to turn into a ralenti mode where all the jockeys slowed their frantic ride to the finish line, looking like a slow-motion film sequence.
At the same time, a most unexpected player slowly but steadily gained on all of them. The mare, running on the far end of the track, finally crossed the finish line. Wow!
Flush with freshly earned cash, I went back to my uncle and hugged him tenderly. Never again did I question his knowledge of human nature. Gracias Tío querido!
In a previous article about Pride, we praised the value of keeping a modest profile in our lives. However, on reviewing the latest (and hopefully also the final) Galley Proofs of our upcoming book EmotionalFrustration- the hushed plague, we cannot help feeling a little bit like that old mare, a proudly-winning Caballo de Comisario.
We will not fail our expectant lady-readers. Our book is getting better by the day, hour, minute.
Happy Birthday. Today we celebrate your 24th birthday, remembering that glorious day in June 1997 when , together with your mother María Tomasa and your sister Noël Marie, we were waiting for your arrival in the Obstetrics department of Saint John’s Hospital in New York City. When we saw you, we were marveled by that little ball of grease, water and affection topped with a big bonnet.
Thank you very much for coming to this world and making our lives more fuller and entertaining.
Thank you God Almighty for granting us the privilege of having children, the very best part of Life.
This year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gustave Flaubert, one of the greatest French novelists of the Nineteenth Century; together with Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Honoré de Balzac and Emile Zola, he revolutionized the basic tenets of French literature and theatre. Born on December 21, 1821 in Rouen, he passed away on May 8th 1880 in Paris; during his relatively brief lifetime, he changed our perspective on Love, Romance and Sentimental Frustrations.
His family was part of the petite bourgeoisie catholique of the administrative capital of Normandy; his father was the chirurgien-en-chef of the Hôtel-Dieu hospital of the city and the family resided many years in a small apartment in the institution’s premises. Full of exalted romanticism in his early youth, he was a rebellious student that was even expelled temporarily form his high school; after successfully completing his baccalauréat exam in 1840, his family rewarded him with a trip to the Pyrénées and Corse. During the summer of 1836 he met Élise Schlesinger (ten years older than him) who will be the Love of His Life, in spite of being physically separated, except for brief periods.
Dispensed by the lottery from the military draft, he started, without much conviction, to study Law in Paris in 1841; he led a very bohemian life, befriending many literary luminaries like Victor Hugo. In 1844 he gives up his studies and relocates to the village of Croisset, on the banks of the River Seine, a few kilometers from Rouen, in a villa bought by his father; there he starts writing in earnest and drafts the first version of l’Éducation Sentimentale and several articles. In the beginning of 1846, both his father and his younger sister Caroline passed away, which devastated him sentimentally.
His father bequeathed him a small fortune and he could dedicate himself fully to a writing career. In that year he met the poet Louise Colet with whom he had a passionate relationship for 10 years. Accompanied by his friend Louis-Hyacinthe Bouilhet he travels to Paris to assist to the 1848revolution; he made very important political contacts, which would prove to be crucial for his career. Between the years 1849 and 1852, he travels extensively in Orient with his friend Maxime du Camp.
Encouraged by his friends, he started creating the draft of Madame Bovary on September 19, 1851. After 56 months of a heavy commitment, he finished the novel in 1856 and it was published as an installment in the Revue de Paris; after meeting the publisher Michel Levy in 1857, the book makes its debut to much acclaim by the Parisian intelligentsia, especially due to its unwavering realism. Before this novel, all the romantic productions depicted a sugary coated version of loving relations. The heroines duly suffered for their all too perfect beaus but in the end there was a happy reunion. Flaubert paints those human relationships with bold, passionate strokes of unmitigated honesty. The book shocked the public and alarmed the authorities who threatened to put him on trial. However, his political connections spared him of that hassle, unlike his friend Charles Baudelaire who was convicted for a similar affront to the prevailing bourgeois sense of decorum.
Was the novel Madame Bovary an imaginary creation of Flaubert, as he had always firmly claimed? Many literary critics contested his assertion by exposing the tragic story of Delphine Delamare. She was the young wife of an officier de santé who committed suicide by ingesting arsenic, after being drowned by bad debts and the treachery of her two lovers; it was big news in Flaubert’s Normandy.
“Women are meant to be loved, not understood.” Oscar Wilde
We have a problem with a woman. A particular one. And it is getting worse.
Ever since we started our medical practice almost forty years ago, she has showed up every day—rain or shine—to share her multiple woes with us. She sits down across our desk, looks at us straight in the eye and says the very same words: “I am emotionally frustrated.” What is her name? Bovary. Emma. Emma Bovary.
When we read Madame Bovary [i] as a student in the Alliance Française[ii] of Montevideo, we were mesmerized by the story of a beautiful and ardent wife of a country medical practitioner that could not find any solace in her grey existence. At the time we could not fathom how she could be so ungrateful to her partner.
However, the ensuing studies and practice as a medical doctor gave us the necessary insight to grasp—if still not fully agree with—the cause of her angst. Physicians watch births, deaths, and almost anything in between them. Including the big and small, yet none the less painful, incidents of women’s humiliations.
We had left our copy of the novel in a box full of books in Montevideo but somehow, Emma sprung out of it to pursue us all the way to Miami to disturb us. Ever since her 1856 debut as a series in La Revue de Paris[iii], this mischievously meek petite bourgeoise has been deftly manipulating ingénue men like us.[iv]
Even in a hyper-connected age, she still cannot get her message through. The plethora of mixed messages in the social media platforms has increased her confusion as her connections seem to be more tone-deaf than ever to her plight. As the tragic trifecta of memory, love and the passage of time relentlessly gnaws at her soul, she has been stubbornly nagging us to record her thoughts verbatim[v]. The Spanish language differentiates between the noble role of escritor—an artist inspired by a mission—and the mundane one of escribiente—an obscure agent that copies other people’s writings or takes dictation.[vi] Haggling with the most miserly of muses and fighting the meanest of demons, we turned into Emma’s escribiente.
[i] Gustave Flaubert, “Madame Bovary”, Frères Michel Levy, Paris, 1857.
[ii] Name of the private institute based in Paris, France, that teaches the French language in many branches worldwide.
[iii] After five years of writing more than 4500 pages, Gustave Flaubert, aged 35 years, published the 500 pages of “Madame Bovary” in the magazine directed by Maxime Du Camp, his companion in the trip to the Far East. There were six parts appearing on the first and fifteenth day of the months of October, November, and December 1856. He wrote to a friend that; ‘you will know that I am presently being printed, I lose my virginity of non-published man in eight days as of Thursday, October 1st…I will for three consecutive months fill most of the pages of La Revue de Paris.” Our translation.
Information was obtained from Yvan Leclerc, “Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, pré-originale dans la Revue de Paris «, Recueil des Commémorations Nationales 2006.
[iv] In the January 8, 2019, program “L’heure Bleu” of Radio France Inter, Laura Adler, the presenter, interviewed Vanessa Springora, author of the bestseller “Le Consentement”. The subject of Madame Bovary and her frustrations came up for discussion. I believe it was Vanessa that suggested that Emma Bovary “devrait avoir pris la plume pour écrire” (she should have picked up the feather to write) Well, false modesty apart, let us inform these ladies that it is never too late for Emma to at least voice her ideas, especially when she can recruit a submissive agent to take dictation like yours truly. Playing with the meaning of our last name, we dare to say: “je suis peut être Laplume qui manquait dans la vie de Madame Bovary” ( I am perhaps the Laplume that was missing in Madame Bovary’s life)
[v] Term in the Latin language that means: “in exactly the same words.”
[vi] Diccionario de la Lengua Española, Tomo 1, Real Academia Española, 2001, Espasa Calpe.
Good morning. We would like to wish all our fellow Italian citizens a Happy Day of the Republic. Today, June the 2th, we are celebrating that day of 1946 when the Italian people voted in a massive referendum for a new republic and discard the fascist-leaning monarchy to the dustbin of History. Moreover, for the first time all the Italian women were elegible to vote in a national election. Bravo!!!
These pictures show the Frecce Tricolori, the aerial aerobatics squadron of the Italian Air Force.
Even with its up and owns, the republic still functions well and is massively supported by the nation. We are grateful to our dearest grandfather Morizio Garbarino and our grandmother Yolanda Musciello for the precious civic legacy that we have inherited through the jus sanguinis principle for their descendants.
Good morning. This Memorial Day week-end is much, much more than an occasion to dust-off the grill and engage in our very first barbecue experience of the summer. It is a time of of remembrance. Today we officially remember the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen that fought and died for us. If we can enjoy the freedom and opportunities of the greatest nation in the history of Mankind (like my dear father Mario used to tell us) it is because they have duly protected us from many threats.
When we were a teenager, we won a scholarship from Youth for Understanding to study six months in a Michigan high school, which was scheduled to start in January 1972. When we were heading back home in the boardwalk from the RamirezBeach of Montevideo one December 1971 evening (remember that it is the Summer season in the Southern Hemisphere) with our mother Gladys and our brother Gustavo, she abruptly stopped in her tracks, smiled at us and very excitedly said:
-“Mirá Marito, están bajando la bandera en la embajada.” (Look, they’re lowering the flag in the embassy)
-“Muy pronto vas a estar ahí…Qué emocionante” (You will soon be there…What a great emotion)
We looked to the right and we could clearly see an impeccably dressed Marine lowering the flag. The three of us stood there in awe at the simple, yet meaningful show, of the Marine Corps’ pageantry. That image was seared in our retinas, constituting the first experience from the country we would eventually adopt as ours. Our parents were always proud and supportive of our choice.
Note. This picture of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima was taken from Wikimedia Images.
Good morning. Yesterday, May 12th, we celebrated the International Day of Nursing, our dearest hard-working and irreplaceable colleagues in the acute and chronic care of our sick fellow citizens. This date has been chosen because Florence Nightingale, a British social reformer, statistician and founder of Modern Nursing, was born on May 12, 1820; during the Crimean War, she visited the field at night, armed with a famous lamp, looking for wounded soldiers for transport to a hospital.
During our English studies in the Instituto Cultural Anglo-Uruguayo of Montevideo, Uruguay, we read and appreciated an article about the courageous woman, dubbed as The Lady with a Lamp. In our later studies of Medicine, we came to appreciate the nurses’ abnegation and professionalism. Moreover, one of the biggest lessons of this terrible pandemic, is that our precious nursing staff played a pivotal role in the care and comfort of countless victims worldwide; oftentimes the very last human presence that a dying person had was a nurse holding hands in a last adieu to this world.
We picture the last moments of our dear Uncle José Luis with that uniquely affectionate comfort. Thank you very much for so much love and dedication for Mankind. Let us not ever forget that.
Good morning and Happy Sunday. Today we are celebrating a very special day, which even with its crass commercial undertones, has a strong significance for all of us. Happy Mother’s Day. Those of you that still have the privilege of her physical presence next to you, should hug them tenderly. And for the rest of us that do not, we should pray for the salvation of their souls and their bienveillance.
The above picture was taken in a café-concert in Punta del Este in the 90s and is one of the best shots of our dear Gladys Josefa, the very best mother we could have had. Gracias Mamita querida!
Every morning we ritually pray to Jesus Christ in the Cross for the salvation of our dear mother and grandmothers. And of course we never fail to shed a little tear for them, asking for their protection.
Let us rejoice with the blessing of having been born from women and been reared with their hands.
“Je gagne mes batailles avec les rêves de mes soldats”
(I win my battles with the dreams of my soldiers)
Napoleone di Buonaparte was born in Ajaccio, Corsica on August 15th, 1769, a mere ten years after the island passed from being a Genovese possession to a department in the French nation; he passed away in the British island of Saint Helen on May 5th 1821. Last May 5th marked the 200th Anniversary of his death, which has been discreetly celebrated by the French Republic. Hs military campaigns all over Europe caused thousands of human casualties and economic devastation, which makes him a very controversial figure in these times of political correctness and historic revision.
Above we included the reproduction of the great tableau of Jean Louis David showing the coronation of Napoléon and his wife Joséphine in the Cathédral of Notre Dame in Paris on December2, 1804. He famously took his wife’s crown out of the hands of the Catholic bishop and placed it himself. That was the ultimate gesture of the Ritali (despective term used in France for the citizens of Italian origin) that had dared to storm his way into the core of the highly centralized French state.
Aside from his outstanding military victories, Napoléon and his group of advisers prodded great transformations in several regions of the planet, which brutally modernized many societies. In France it established firmly the equality of rights of all the citizens in the Napoleonic Code; it laid the foundations of its administratively efficient division into departments, away from feudalism. In Italy it broke the grip of the Catholic Church and the regional warlords in the communal affairs; for the first time Italians had the concept of a Unified Nation when he established a Kingdom in theNorth (headed by him) and a Kingdom in the South (headed by his brother) In Germany it spawned the military coalition of the previously ferociously independent länders and city-states (with the exception of Baviera) into a large army that, together with the British, would finally defeat with him. However, after he had departed, the European societies changed their economic and social tenet.
The invasion and takeover of the Bourbon Kingdom of Spain with the establishment of a puppet regime headed by his brother José, sparked the revolutionary movements in South America, Initially the criollos (natives) and Spanish citizens living in Argentina and Uruguay mobilized and hastily formed provisional governments that considered the deposed Fernando VII as their legitimate ruler. However, after “tasting” the fruits of local rule, when the Bourbon king was re-instated in Madrid, those provisional governments refused to dissolve and disappear, sparking fierce wars of liberation.
With dear our father Mario, we enjoyed reading and discussing Napoléon’s military campaigns, including his last stand at Waterloo; displaying a battle map of a book we had gifted him, our father neatly showed us how the unknown obstacle of a little ditch foiled the rescue charge of La Garde Impériale. If that elite regiment would have reached his commanding position, he would have won the battle.
Do not be surprised that people of French heritage like us still admire the Great Corsican so much. In a recent survey that asked French commoners what was the historical figure they would like to personally meet and talk to, they responded like this:
First place: Napoléon Bonaparte
Second place: Charles de Gaulle
Third place: Louis XIV
As you already know by reading our article, we had the fortune of meeting Général de Gaulle as a child. Perhaps, in one of the still unexplored corners of our wide world, we might meet Napoléon?
Good morning. We wish all our fabulous working relatives and friends a great May 1st, their day. Today we especially remember those that every day toil in countless working places to make our modern societies work smoothly for all of us citizens. Without them, we would not survive a minute.
Note. This reproduction of Ford Madox Bown’s Work (1863) was taken from Wikimedia Images. The original painting is located in the Birmingham Art Gallery, United Kingdom.
After these terrible months, we should appreciate the sacrifice and efforts of millions of workers worldwide that defied the dangers of this still ongoing pandemic to keep us well fed and clothed. In our upcoming book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague, we argued that society owes much more than a mere recognition to all of them, but rather increased wages and social benefits. We hereby enclose an excerpt of our book for you to read. Please let us know your valued opinion.
‘This zoonotic disease, which passed between animals and humans, was propitiated by a global trade of wildlife, agricultural intensification, deforestation, and urbanization that are bringing human communities in a much closer contact with wild animals’ habitats. These critical issues must be urgently addressed by all nations in international forums with real powers to regulate and enforce.
Another major upheaval is the change of the socio-economic coordinates of most societies regarding the labor opportunities that will be offered by employers. The purely physical labor will continue to keep downsizing in the Information Age, especially for positions that can be staffed by people working from their homes. The remuneration of the heroes that are now buttressing communities—physicians, nurses, care assistants, laboratory clerks, fire and police forces, operators of basic services, truck and delivery drivers, re-stockers of warehouse supplies, etc.—must be promptly, justly increased to reflect their real value for our mere survival.
Is a financier fiddling with numbers more valued than your local butcher?
As we are writing these lines, we are hearing the generalized hand clapping of the Parisians, exactly at their 8 PM time through the transmission of Radio France Inter [i] in honor of the medical and nursing personnel of their hospitals.
In a positive twist, the citizenry has stopped to subserviently follow the so-called “celebrities” of entertainment and sports that had polluted all public spaces. Who is the object of their dreams? The scientists that are working to bring a safe and effective vaccine against the Coronavirus. The blessed saviors of Mankind.
In the aftermath of this pandemic, the world all around us will feel “weird.” Many of the familiar physical and spiritual assumptions that anchored our daily demeanor in our societies will either be transformed or gone forever from Reality. Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC [ii] said: “A new world is here. Hand sanitizers at building entrances, touch-free doors and elevators, health care that results in fewer infections of patients and staff, and similar measures are here to stay. Travel bans and quarantine of travelers will most likely continue until there is a vaccine, Vulnerable people may need to shelter in place even after others have re-entered our new world.” [iii]
Whatever the magnitude of the challenges ahead, we have the firm certitude that our dear women will be at our side. Let us appreciate their precious devotion by enthusiastically giving them their due respect.
As President François Macron said in an address to the French nation:
Good afternoon. After a few days of tinkering with the necessary set-up, we just published our first podcast at anchor.fm/dr-mario-o-laplume. You are cordially invited to hear it at your total leisure. The greatest advantage is that you can listen to it, whenever you want, wherever you want. Practical.
Our dear son Gian Luca (pictured above in a Parisian street) has been designing a podcast with his friend Brennan and he suggested that we should try our hand at creating one. Pour quoi pas?
As a trial, we converted our previous article Happy Easter into a podcast, to see how things turned out. We also prepared a completely new episode but we are still struggling with the Spotify set-up. We want to put some nice romantic music at the beginning so you can relax and start dreaming. Please remember that the signature line of this web page is: Physician – Writer – Planter of Dreams.
This is just a small first step to get the process going; we promise to regularly upload new episodes. Slowly we will improve our techniques, including how to talk more slowly and pronounce correctly. Isn’t it funny that in this age of digital communications, we might be losing the gift of our voices? It is time to re-connect with our sounds, with our physical presences, with our Basic Human values.