Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Imagine wearing tinted glasses. Like when Dorothy went over the rainbow and everything changed from black and white to Technicolor. That’s Cuba.
Put on those tinted glasses and join me in looking at a billboard size photograph of Havana.
Start at the top. The sky is an electric blue. A blue so clear and vibrant that it feels like an artist on drugs painted it.
Move your eyes to the bay, the harbor of Havana. Celadon in color, clear as glass, the white caps of waves crash against the wall of the Malecon. History has unfolded here. The Spanish built a 5-kilometer wall and fortress in the 17th century to defend the city from pirates and foreign attackers. Still defending the city four centuries later. In the evenings, hundreds of Cubans sit along the wall or walk its narrow boardwalk, taking in the scent and warm air.
Look now at the cityscape of Havana. Studded with architectural jewels, there are hundreds of buildings of historical importance.
The architecture, from Baroque to Art Deco, is grand but its glory has faded, due to neglect and poverty.
Think South Beach, Florida, with its delicious palate of colorful buildings, wide boulevards lined with mansions.
Think major European cities with monumental squares, each with fountains and statues of historical figures.
Think of decaying edifices, empty structures with broken windows, laundry hanging next to Doric columns. See ruins of magnificence, many now a memory of a glorious era. That’s Cuba.
Turn around and look at the streets filled with people of every skin color imaginable, all in jeans and t-shirts, except for those dressed in authentic Cuban costumes, hoping that you will give them a few pesos for a photo. Tourists from England, Canada, Spain, Poland, Germany, Asia and a few Americans congregate in groups in the four main plazas in Havana Viejo (Old Havana), all listening intently as their guides lecture about the importance of this and that. Young men yell, “What country are you from? Do you want to buy cigars (mostly counterfeit, we are warned)?
A 1950s time warp, an American Dream Cruise moved to a Caribbean island.
We watch the cars of our youth
3 on the tree
wood grained dash with AM radio
All colors of the rainbow
Memories of sliding over to the middle to be next to him
Paul Anka singing “Tears on my Pillow”
Strains of “Rock Around the Clock”
Bobby Darrin and Johnny Mathis crooning my favorite songs.
Chevy Impalas, Ford Fairlanes, Pontiac Bonnevilles, convertibles with white interiors and red or turquoise exteriors.
A Surprise Trip
Monday, February 28, 2011 - I announced to Carlos as he left to meet the breakfast group at 7:00 am, “Be home by noon. We are going on a surprise adventure with Alice and Max for his 70th birthday.”
I can’t go on a trip.
I’m too busy.
I have plans.
I have a training session at the gym.
I have a meeting at the Presidencia (city hall).
Blah, Blah, Blah
Deal with it.
6 Days? That’s impossible.
I can’t go.
Change the trip.
My response: (with teeth clenched)
We are going.
We can’t change the plans.
Cancel your appointments.
Pack your suitcase.
Where are we going?
I am not at liberty to discuss it.
At 2 pm a van drove the four of us to the Queretaro bus station. Our destination: Mexico City airport.
Excitement was beginning to build. Questions and guesses were flying back and forth. Alice and I maintained our “no response” response.
5am - Wake up call.
6am - Board shuttle to airport.
They still have no idea where we are going.
“C-oo-ba”, ever so quietly slipped out of my mouth.
Their response: “CUBA”! FANTASTIC!”
A few hours later, we landed in Havana...
and an hour later, checked in to the hotel Parque Central (Central Park)