Yummy Bear


Yo soy, yo soy, yo soy como el oso/feo/pero sabroso 

The rage for using the word "mambo" that got unleashed after the success and movie adaptation of Oscar Hijuelos' The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love was only matched by the one for the word "tango" unleashed by the Broadway review Tango Argentino. Both phenomena unleashed a renewed passion for these old genres.

Well deserved. But I'm no mambo fan. In fact, I'm typical of the reason why the original mambo craze eventually faded. The mambo is too damn hard to dance. Already bedeviled by Cuban poly-rhythms (as Kid Creole sang: This Latin music's mayhem/There's too much syncopation), the mambo is danced against the beat. The resulting spectacle is a wonder to watch and a challenge to perform. Enter the cha-cha-chá. Before salsa dancers simplified the movements by dancing on the beat, the earlier genre, known in English by the truncated name cha-cha, is danced on the beat. Anyone, or almost anyone can do it. Certainly, those of us who could never do the mambo can at least try.

I grew up first with the mambo and then with the cha-cha-chá, the soundtrack of my childhood. And I grew fond of some numbers, like the one about the bear, which stresses the importance of being cariñoso -- affectionate -- and says that it's okay for a man to be feo -- ugly -- as long as he's sabroso -- no translation needed.

Which brings me to the bear I saw a few days ago. There are signs on local country roads in the Florida Panhandle warning about bear crossings. One does not normally think of Florida as bear country, but here they are, so many of them that a ban on bear hunting has been lifted for a season.

And here was my bear, crossing the road not too far ahead of me. Not expecting ursine sightings I first thought it was a dog. A very large, very black dog. Loping like a bear. As always, seeing wildlife thrills me, urban innocent that I am. Though I would not like a close encounter -- the frequency of which being the reason for lifting the ban on hunting -- I like knowing these big creatures share space with me, that I live in a place and time where wild animals are my neighbors.

And I have a naive romantic feeling about bears. So much like us, like me. Omnivores. Resourceful. Can walk like bipeds if called for. Top of the food chain. Give off an air of, well, chill.

The bear I saw did not look feo, but then I don't think bears are. Sabroso? I'll never know but I'd like to think so.