OT: Lost a star in my sky


Basic Member
Jan 30, 2002
Lost a star in my sky.

Dunno quite how to deal with it. Best man I've ever known. Best friend I've had. A man of infinite interests and energy, with a curiosity for life in all its manifestations which defied convention. I was honored by his friendship, even if I didn't quite understand it.

Can't cry. Stunned, maybe; or maybe just I knew he would die one day, just thought he would be gracious enough to do it after I did.

Don't know why I'm writing this.

Here's an article about one of his exploits. I edited out his last name. He was nuts, but wonderful.

American not angry at Cuban jailers

Meeting dissidents resulted in charge

By Carol Rosenberg. crosenberg@herald.com. Published Tuesday, September 5, 2000, in the Miami Herald

His bathroom was a hole in the floor. Breakfast was an egg, a roll and warm milk in the morning. Accommodations were an eight-person cell, lights lit around the clock, shared with three other people.

For 20 days last month, a retired Chicago businessman on a self-styled people-to-people mission ran afoul of Cuban security services and was held at Havana's infamous Interior Ministry prison, Villa Marista, a former seminary turned interrogation center.

His charge: "Rebellion,'' for videotaping dissidents on why they oppose the U.S. trade embargo, then tipping them $20 to $30. He also gave away four baseballs, six Beanie Babies and a box of books, which he delivered to three independent libraries.

"I met with probably a dozen dissidents. I was warned to be careful and I wasn't careful enough,'' said Douglas, 70, in a telephone interview from his home in Chicago.

Detained Aug. 11, a day before he was to depart Cuba from a two-week visit, he was released Thursday evening and put aboard a plane to Jamaica.

In between, he said, he was never abused but subjected to intensive interrogation by beefy state security members, who were exceptionally concerned about his health but equally convinced that he had been on a mission to undermine the Cuban system for a subversive organization.

"In terms of my face-to-face contacts, I cannot complain about the treatment,'' he said, sounding chagrined at the brouhaha his detention caused.


Doug, a retired personnel manager for a Swiss agricultural firm, is a self-described "knee-jerk liberal,'' with a history of activism in civil rights movements. An Amnesty International member, he was an election observer in El Salvador in 1990 and cut sugar cane in Cuba in 1998 with the Venceremos Brigades, which he found "a Potemkin village sort of thing.''


So he returned earlier this year, and again this summer, to hear from dissidents. He met a dozen, videotaped interviews with about six, he said, posed for photographs with them, and then gave them $20 or $30 each, what he called "a gratuity for their time and effort and information.''

"I wasn't delivering wads of cash to buy C4 with, or anything, like that,'' he said.

But Cuban officials "were very suspicious as to why I came down: Whether somebody sent me, whether somebody directed me, whether somebody financed me. I said, `I'm on my own. I represent nobody except my curiousity on social, political and economic things in Cuba.' I don't know that they ever believed me,'' he said.


"No. 1, they're paranoid, and No. 2, they've got some reasons to be paranoid,'' he replied. "And, No. 3, by all appearances if I was looking at me I could find reason to be very suspicious as what I was doing.''


So for nearly three weeks, he engaged in near-daily rounds of interrogation, interrupted periodically by medical officers concerned about his diabetes.

"They monitored my diabetes, smothered me with doctors and testing. They said their No. 1 concern was my health. It would've been embarrassing to have an American die in a prison for PR reasons,'' he said. "I could not ask for a more conscientious, continuous monitoring in concern for my medical situation,'' he added, acknowledging he sounded like "an ad for the tourist bureau.''

"In terms of the way I was treated, I can't complain, I was very well treated. I was even warmly treated, and this from people whose job it was to find out, look under every rock to see what they could find me guilty of.''

His first time in prison, he said, he wasn't afraid, but based on the conditions "I can understand why the Red Cross isn't allowed in there . . . if the Red Cross has particularly high standards.''


His toilet was "a hole in the floor underneath the shower,'' his cell was a "sizable room with six bunks,'' in a hospital facility occupied by three younger men, all Cubans, whose circumstances "I sort of made it my business not know.'' Beside, he said, they didn't speak English.

"The guards, the interrogators, everybody was professional, but also very human,'' he added. "Maybe they felt sorry for me with my stumbling attempts to follow their directions in Spanish. They were uniformly nice and considerate.''

Doug said he was never fearful during his imprisonment, even when he concluded that he would probably be convicted of a crime and spend seven to 15 years in prison.

An opponent of U.S. trade sanctions of Cuba, he said he probably will not return to the island -- for fear of his wife, Priscilla. She raised a nearly three-week ruckus with the Cuban mission in Washington when he did not come home on time and with the State Department and members of Congress.


So what did he learn on his fact-finding mission?

"A lot of what I thought before: They simply don't allow dissent. They make a distinction between dissent and desertion -- and they consider that anybody who is discussing other than the existing social economic order has deserted the objectives and accomplishments of the revolution.

"I lectured, unsuccessfully I'm sure, that dissent is what brings progress historically -- from the eight-hour day, to women's suffrage to civil rights to the Vietnam War. I told them, you know if we arrested people for what you consider dissent as a crime, we would have 95 percent of our population in jail at any moment,'' he said.

"Unfortunately, that doesn't exist in Cuba. I think that is their loss.''

Copyright 2000 Miami Herald

Doug was fascinated by social change, by life, by living. I once came upon him when he was 72 years old, pouring concrete to help a guy who wanted to open up a service garage, but who couldn't afford to have the place fixed up. Doug got to talking with the guy, and the next day showed up with concrete mix and a shovel.

Words can't explain my sense of loss. I don't need sympathy. I was so fortunate to have known this man, I consider myself lucky.
Mar 22, 2002
It is my hope and belief that such men (and women) in our lives will be waiting to shake our hands when we go West, as Yvsa says.



Got the Khukuri fevah
May 9, 2002
I think you hit the nail on the head, munk. There are those that we know in this life that just seem to shine a bit brighter than the rest. They win with humilty. Lose with grace and many times a smile. They always have just the right thing to say when it needs to be said. I know several men and women like that. It's bitter sweet to see them go. On one hand, they are gone for the rest of our lives. On the other, you can still see their vapor trail of all the great things they had done in their short time. Not monuments, but faint acts of goodness that leave their mark just deep enough for that look for it to see. Kis, just remember that we identify with those most like ourselves. I have a strong feeling that you and your late friend are two birds of the same feather. Peace be with you in this difficult time.



Mar 8, 1999
His example lives on in you, Kis. And I don't care if you don't think so. Most folks here are with me.
May 18, 1999
Steely_Gunz said:
Kis, just remember that we identify with those most like ourselves. I have a strong feeling that you and your late friend are two birds of the same feather. Peace be with you in this difficult time.

I second those statements!

Kis you're a fine man and if you walk West before I do I'll be saying similar things about you. Don't sell yourself short my friend.:)
Oct 25, 2004
He sounds like he was a real interesting person to know. It also sounds like he did some real good in his life. If only all of us were so fortunate.