Bati Bleki, Sept 15th, 2014

MAD MEN. I subscribed to Netflix perhaps two years ago and then just didn’t bother to really take advantage of the service because, I have already seen all the good movies in the movie-theaters, and there was never anything exciting on the menu. Then one day I actually listened to a girlfriend who suggested that orange is the new black, and got hooked. I watched two seasons with urgency. I understand they call it binge-watching. Then I switched to Breaking Bad and when in season 1 episode 2 Jesse tried to dispose of the body of a drug dealer using acid, didn’t use a plastic bin and destroyed his bathtub in the process, I stopped, it was much too stressful. Two seasons of Lilyhammer followed, convincing me to tick Norway off my bucket-list, but I liked Steven Van Zandt, as the bumbling New York gangster. A few weeks ago, I started watching Mad Men. Mind you, 85 episodes of 45 minutes on average, that’s an investment of 3,825 minutes, or 64 hours without taking bathroom breaks and/or charging my iPad. I am totally into it now, in season 4 out of 7. What I love most is that the writers and directors collected volumes of research on the period in which Mad Men takes place so that everything about the show including detailed set designs, costume design, and props are historically accurate, the way they drink, smoke and fornicate on the job, in the authentic visual style of the 60s, is totally entertaining. In the series, the much-distracted Madison Avenue advertising geniuses hardly have time to work. Similarly, in today’s business reality our much-distracted execs hardly have time to work because they’re on their smartphones!

ELDERLY CARE IN ARUBA. I read the recent publications regarding Aruba’s nursing homes, managed by the SABA foundation, with great interest. Apparently, the not-for-profit foundation runs 4 highly-regarded elderly facilities with almost 300 residents.  Over half of that population suffers from different degrees of dementia, and requires high levels of care. The residents’ pensions cover about 25% of their expenses, and the government of Aruba foots the bill for the rest, covering medical care, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, activities, lodging, laundry, food, beverage, air-conditioning, water and pocket money. Shockingly, families were not obligated to participate financially. On the contrary, I hear of cases in which grandpa’s pocket money is taken away by disgraceful family members. The complete burden of expenses fell on the government’s shoulders, until just recently when as a result of a money-crunch, the Minister axed the budget and imposed unprecedented cuts without warning. SABA then in a meeting with family members announced an obligatory co-pay of about Awg 50 per person, a month, resulting in public outrage, which is an outrage onto itself, because families should have been asked to participate in expenses much earlier. How can you abandon the elderly to the exclusive care of the state?! Kids must share the expenses of caring for their aging parents, the government cannot be expected to do it all. For additional sources of income SABA is now thinking out-of-the-box and planning to introduce a menu of activities such as professional hospice care and rehab-care. SABA could charge for its hospice and rehabilitation services, and use the money to modernize its facilities and improve the lives of its residents. But lawmakers first must place the foundation under healthcare, instead of the current joint-custody — it falls in the crack between two chairs,  that of Social Affairs and that of the Ministry of Health. One popular myth about Eskimo life is the strange practice they reportedly had when members faced old age, and became a burden to their clan. According to that story, when adults could no longer contribute to the well-being of the group, they were taken to sea, and set adrift on a floating iceberg. Instead of hanging on, they were moved on, to the afterlife. I don’t know if the story is true or not but it can be used as a metaphor. We cannot set our elderly out, afloat on an iceberg, on their own. Family involvement must remain part of the process.

KOK OPTICA’S NEW SUNGLASSES BOTIQUE. Kok Optica just transformed the old Mathilde cunucu-house in Oranjestad into a modern, stylish sunglasses boutique. The family, reports Franz Kok, has been in business for 18 years. Dad is credited with formulating  the vision, and kids Franz and Alexandra made it happen. The store has three distinct sections with moderate, reasonable brands upfront, much in demand classics in the middle and high-fashion exclusive offerings in the back. I loved the Emilio Pucci retro cat-eye frames making a comeback, and the Tom Ford Calgary Butterfly sunglasses. Franz says they are all popular including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Oliver’s People and the latest oversize Ray Ban Jackie Os. Carrera racing glasses, Oakley sports glasses and the Oakley Ferraris with distinctive red O-icons and temple tips, are all bestsellers. Frans favors Chloe’s round sunglasses and the ornate Roberto Cavalli but he says Kok Optica has something for everyone. It all started when the Kok Optica boutique on the boulevard, across from the fruit market, was asked to vacate its space at the end of the rental contract. Then the idea came to Anna Jansen, who told Frans who asked Landa Henriquez. That’s how it works in small communities. Franz fondly shares that he remembers living in that house as a child, and that he finds his return to the property especially heart-warming. While renovating, the Kok family kept the original building elements intact, and on opening night, Friday, the mega affair was orchestrated by Fernando Mansur; the emotional ribbon cutting by the family’s Patriarch and the Matriarch. With their first cunucu house on Wilhelminastraat in charge of prescription glasses, and the second one on Havenstraat 23, offering the world’s best sunglasses, Kok Optica seems to have cornered the market just as the Italian Luxottica Group did, controlling over 80% of the world’s major eyewear brands, and keeping the price, ahem, very high.

ARISTOCRAZY LIVENS UP THE MAIN SQUARE. Aristocrazy, a stylish jewelry store managed by Susana Montero opened at the beginning of the year on the square at the heart of town. The Spanish brand belongs to a family-line of jewelers dating back to 1940, when Emiliano Suárez Faffian opened a small shop in Calle Jardines, Bilbao. Famous for  design and craftsmanship the mother company launched the prêt-à-porter Aristocrazy brand in 2010 and has been working to expand it globally, with 28 stores so far, in places such as Mexico, Chile, Portugal, and Aruba. The jewelry in the showcases is gorgeous, especially the one line inspired by the medieval Game of Thrones. The store carries a mini collection and a mega collection, which you can mix, little delicate and dainty pieces besides chunky, Punk Rocker excessive pieces. You will enjoy window shopping for crosses, skulls, bows and message jewels, in pendants, bracelets and rings. Look for spikes, studs and thorns mixed with shackles and the iconic snake, for a wild and sophisticated look. Susana lives up to the store’s image with a wild and sophisticated head of hair. Her curly tri-colored mane makes her look like a lioness, with excessive jewelry. She is optimistic about the future, especially now that ice-cream store opened next door, to drive additional traffic into the plaza.

GELATISSIMO II MOVES INTO TOWN. Take the afternoon off and go hang-out on the square at the head of the main street. Gelatissimo II just opened there offering original Italian homemade gelato, excellent coffee, pressed sandwiches and more.  Gelatissimo is the Ferrara’s family newest addition to the Gianni’s Group. They already have a successful one on Palm Beach. The place dresses up the square at the head of main street and will give us a good reason to sit around and wait for the Zara to open its flagship store at the Aventura Mall and the Holland Aruba Mall. Yes, I heard that both the west and the east sides of the square are being salvaged by the giant Spanish clothing and accessories retailer.