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The bad with the good

29 October 2014

The beginning of the last week in Cuba of phase one of my grand plan.

Last week I lost a lot of daytime sightseeing due to a solid week of rain. There was some sort of tropical system parked over Mexico that was causing the rain, according to my limited ability to read last week’s newspapers.

It must’ve been a lot of rain since the paper was full of breathless accounts of high (metric) levels of rain: Vinales received 57 millipedes of rain per hecatomb of land, that sort of thing.


But on the plus side, I did get out later at night to see a bit of Havana’s nightlife. On the other hand, this did expose me to some ugly shit. On Monday night before the rains I went down to the Casa de la Musica in Centro to catch the 5 p.m. matinee, only it turned out there was no matinee on Mondays.

Rather than just hop back in a cab and head home, I walked around for a bit. It wasn’t long before a guy asked where I was from and then told me he had a family member living in the U.S.

EVERY Cuban I’ve talked to says they do. Some clearly do, like the woman whose voice trembled and whose eyes got wet when she told me about one of her twin sons living in Miami for 10 years without a word from him, but others might just be casting for common ground to close the hustle. I like when some ask if I’m from New York or California, then go blank when I say Montana. Nobody ever has family in Montana.

He asks what’s up and I explain my situation and he says he’s a “professor of percussion,” (the other popular profession is “professor of salsa”) and his band is playing soon and would I like to come see?

Wanting to see live music, I go.

We climb a flight of dog-piss-smelling stairs (top travel tip: never go up a flight of stairs that only promise a room full of dogs, pissing) to an empty club.

It’s clear there will be a show here at some point, but it’s at least six hours away. I sigh. We sit.

Almost immediately two women approach. At the same time, the bartender sidles up to explain that in Cuba it’s traditional for friends to buy drinks at a table.

I’m sick of this shit after all this time so I say I’m not buying anything for me or anyone else.

One of the women fucks right off when she hears that, but the other sits, her leg touching mine.

Professor Hi-Hat says she’s very beautiful, that she was a ballerina in the national ballet, and if I want to before the show, I can take her back to my place for an hour or two.

I politely decline.

He says not to worry, that it’s normal in Cuba.

She says I’m very handsome and grabs my hand and puts it on her chest.

I remove my hand and say I have a girlfriend.

“Here in Cuba?” she asks.

“There’s a house around the corner you can use, if you don’t want to spend money on the taxi,” the good professor says.

“It’s OK,” she says, and puts her hand in my lap and grabs my gentleman sausage.

I’m out of my chair quickly, saying it’s time for me to go, yes you’re very beautiful but it’s not for me this whole “paying for sex” thing, you’re kind to offer, etc., as I head toward the piss stairs.

“Why not?” she says to me. “Why not?” she says to the professor.

“Maybe he’s a faggot,” he says as I hit the door and then the street.

A woman stops and tells me a sob story about the stores in Havana only taking the hard currency and how she gets paid in the Cuban peso and how she needs money for her baby.

I’m in a foul mood at this point and I just spit “Use your ration card, then,” and keep walking, and before long I felt bad about the whole thing and the whole day.

It set a tone for the week that didn’t really lift until the clouds did.

This week, with clear skies and lower temperatures, has been good so far.

There’s a great game on TV right now and the baseball gods have seen fit to give us their greatest gift tonight, a seventh World Series game, and God willing I’ll be able to watch it live tonight. Chau.

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