By Ian Smith – CWL:WA

Last month finally saw the end to one of the most contentious battles in recent American political history. For the people of New York, it was like being in no man’s land. Kane versus Gettys was always going to be explosive. The print magnate and the union lawyer had butted heads many times in court prior to this fight. Daily, and throughout the campaign, accusations of propaganda, empty promises and outrageous lies would fly back and forth. This mudslinging dictating the rules of engagement to see who would become the next Governor of New York. Consequently, it was Kane’s inability (or unwillingness) to weather accusations of infidelity by Gettys union-controlled newspapers that led to his withdrawal from the race. And whilst Kane claimed blackmail–which would subsequently be found to be true following proof of Kane’s infidelity–Gettys stole power.

The 45-year-old billionaire industrialist tycoon, Charles Foster Kane’s life reads like a movie script. As a child, Kane’s parents ran a modest boarding house in Little Salem, Colorado. In repayment for a lodger’s unpaid bill, Kane’s mother accepted the deeds to a worthless mine. Yet the mine proved to be anything but worthless, unexpectedly striking a large gold deposit a month later. Now with vast riches, Kane’s mother entrusts him to a NY bank. Where an officious trust-fund manager, Mr Thatcher, manages the young child’s wealth and education until his 24th birthday.

Charles Foster Kane. Photo: BBC News

On turning 24, an idealistic Kane purchases The Inquirer, an ailing New York newspaper. His front-page principle declaration writ large, “I will provide the citizens of this city with a daily paper that will tell the news honestly.”  With this promise, Kane captures the attention of New York, and quickly triples The Inquirer’s circulation. Although that may have been less down to honesty and more to tabloid journalism, than perhaps he would care to admit. Through his now diverse mining, construction and burgeoning media businesses, Kane’s power and influence becomes apparent at the highest levels in Washington, and extends beyond America–winning lucrative domestic and overseas government contracts during the Spanish-American war. Gettys’ background, however, is a world apart from the privileged Kane’s.

‘Boss’ James W. Gettys. Photo: Instagram.

James W. Gettys’ tough East Flatbush upbringing would earn him the nickname, ‘boss’ which, even at 50, he is still referred to by most. Gettys’ father was a Scots-Irish immigrant whose petty criminal activities earned him frequent stays in prison throughout Gettys’ childhood. As a result, the family were well known to the police and courts alike. This is when the young Jim observed the art of both politics and corruption.

At the age of 15, Jim was detained for attempting to tamper with postal votes for several corrupt local officials to disrupt elections. This manipulation of process appealed to the young ‘boss’ who saw that with the right application, opportunities would come his way. Which he later put into practice, eventually graduating from the NYU School of Law—specialising in labor law and unions. It was shortly after graduating that Boss Jim W. Gettys’ would start his political career and the journey to become governor of New York—a battle which he vowed to “win at any cost”.


The streets outside the Casa Ore Eco Hostel are straight and dusty. The sidewalks are uneven and cracked. There are coloured floor-tiles dotted among the regular paving stones. As I stand facing down the Av. Vanderbilt, I notice the scores of hammock’d power-lines lazily slung between wooden poles and across from one side of the street to the other. The brightly coloured shop signs stand out against the almost pure white sunlight of the morning. It is 8:30 am and I need a coffee.

The hustle of the day has already begun for both the locals and visiting surfers alike: board shops and breakfast bars open and close in time with the tides. The serious business of selling and surfing is inextricably governed by the predictable intervals of the ocean’s ebb and flow. I head towards the inviting Pollos a la Lená, an appropriately coloured yellow and red shack—however, it’s a little early for fire roasted chicken. I move on past the lines of lego-coloured businesses announcing that theirs is the ‘best deal in town’, until I come to the end of the block. Suddenly, there across my path is a black cat. And he smells great.

The doorway to this literary bookstore, a shed with paperbacks on shelves, in the heart of Nicaragua’s surf ‘spot’, San Juan Del Sur, is brightly coloured and inviting. A mishmash of colours with a single bright red double gate in the middle. I go inside, a small bean roaster spits and crackles in the corner of this tin-shack shrine to coffee, books and food. The middle-aged dude behind the bar nods a ‘hey’ in my direction.

The dude serving is also the owner. An American ex-corporate type who is a little customer jaded, I guess; he makes this clear by having signs that read, ‘do not just start reading the books, buy one and then read it’, or ‘this isn’t Starbucks. If you can’t wait, don’t order’. I scan the chalkboard coffee and breakfast menu, and the local fruit pancakes, freshly squeezed juice and a cold-brew coffee sound just right. I pick my seat, a table near the ferocious but fragrant coffee roaster, and wait.

The blender whirs, the icebox chatters, the frying pan sizzles. The minutes pass. The smoke from the roasting beans flavour the air as they churn and cascade over the heat. The birds chirrup outside in the garden. The staff chit-chat through the steam coming from the pans on the old hobs. Customers saunter in, the slap of flip-flops accompany the melody of pancakes being plated and juice and coffee being poured over ice. ‘There you go.’ At last, thirty-seven minutes in the waiting.

Those thirty-seven minutes were significant. I’ve never waited so long for a cup of coffee anywhere else in the world, at least one not served in a stainless-steel tumbler. Were the pancakes good? Very. Was the juice fresh? Refreshingly. How was the coffee — was it worth waiting for? Well, I’m still thinking about it five years later.