Sunday, October 31, 2004

Sunday Reading – Politics-Free Edition

Tired of reading about polls, battleground states, and all that other stuff? Well, this morning settle back with some reading that is free of all of that.

  • From the Miami Herald, there’s a story about prostitutes in Guatemala finding respectability and getting some exercise, too.

    When Susy Sica arrives each morning at work, she often needs to rinse off and take off her cleats before slipping into high heels and see-through pink lingerie.

    Sica is an illiterate single mother of seven. And she is a sex worker. But more recently, the 41-year-old Maya Indian has taken on a new title that she’s very proud of: defensive sweeper for the Stars of the Tracks.

    This recently formed team is made up of prostitutes who work during the daytime in tiny, stuffy rooms on either side of a four-block stretch of train tracks in downtown Guatemala City. In the little over a month since they started playing soccer, they have faced off in five-on-five soccer games against other sex workers in cities around the country and in El Salvador and against a team of policewomen, female journalists and high school girls.

    But the team’s biggest goal has nothing to do with the ones they score on the field. Their idea is to use this team as a platform to decry the discrimination they suffer in Guatemalan society and to demand respect and rights.

    ”People always treat us like we are lower than them . . . I think that all human beings deserve respect,” said Sica, who, until now, never had the opportunity to play a sport.

    Prostitutes here may well suffer discrimination, but their work is legal and in very high demand. According to surveys conducted by a public health organization that works with prostitutes, there are as many as 17,000 prostitutes in all of Guatemala, roughly one for every 140 men over age 15. Guatemala has also emerged as a regional center for prostitution, attracting many Salvadoran, Honduran and Nicaraguan women, some of whom play for the Stars.

  • But if soccer’s not your game, then how about sitting down for some poker with these guys? Watch out, though – if they clean you out, they’ll add insult to injury by bumming a ride home since they’re not old enough to drive.

    The table was antique mahogany. The chips were casino-quality clay in a gleaming, Bond-like steel carrying case. The game was, of course, No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, except for the players who had already lost their buy-in and joined the poker and dice games in another room. Records of earnings and losses for the 15 regulars and 7 occasional players were kept on an Excel spreadsheet on one of the organizers’ computers.

    After 11 p.m. or so, the winners pocketed their cash. The players snacked on popcorn and whatever else they could forage from the kitchen, argued amiably about who was the biggest poker addict, and then ran into the backyard, where the floodlights allowed for a high-energy game of midnight football, the perfect way for a group of ninth graders to end an evening out.


    Pick a town, any town, and you’ll find kids more often than not who know the difference between the flop (first three communal cards in Hold ‘Em), the turn (the fourth) and the river (the fifth). The World Series of Poker, which draws more than a million viewers per episode on ESPN has made poker stars like Doyle Brunson and Chris Moneymaker as familiar to adolescent boys as Kobe and Shaq. (And if the pot bellies and sallow visages of the supremely unglamorous poker elite aren’t typical celebrity profiles, their air of eccentric inscrutability does have a certain middle school appeal to it.)


    People can make different moral calculations about how good or bad this is. But Ken Winters, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, said that despite real risks of addictive gambling, so far the spread of legalized gambling has not sent the country hurtling toward perdition and probably won’t send its youth there either.

    “I worry about sexually transmitted diseases and drug abuse a lot more than I worry about gambling,” he said. “I really don’t think the sky is falling with Texas Hold ‘Em. My parents’ generation said the Beatles would be the beginning of the end. I don’t think it really led to all that much trouble.”

  • Okay, so it’s the end of October. The campaign is almost over. The frost is not only on the pumpkin, but it’s gone rot in the field and on the front porch. Daylight Savings Time is over, so it’s dark at 5 p.m. You can’t find the windshield scraper, so you’re scratching the ice off with a credit card. It’s getting to look a lot like winter. What to do? Get the hell out of town for a while and come on down to where it’s nice and warm and sunny. Check out some vacation ideas from the folks at Caribbean Travel & Life magazine. And not to rub it in or anything, but it’s only an hour away for me, straight down the turnpike to Key Largo. (I heard that. The same to you.)

    The Dolphins play the Jets Monday night in New York. Detroit plays Dallas. The game to have seen, though, was the Michigan vs. Michigan State triple OT thriller. Talk about your battleground state…