An index of the Cuba series appears at the first post.
August 1, 2015
My day started at 8:30, but I wrote on my journal until just after 10 AM. I hiked on a tender ankle to the house, where brunch was being prepared. At 11:22 AM, the power suddenly went out. Happily, it had returned by 11:40 AM. Lorenzo told me that I had finally experienced the true Cuba. For brunch, we relished a tortilla Espanola, a huge omelet of potatoes. It’s a family favorite and one that the Cubans have appropriated as their own. After so many days on the run, we were happy to have some down time. We watched a movie with the kids and played games. I remembered some friends at home who might enjoy some cigars, and Lorenzo said he would check with a buddy who knew a guy. Buying cigars formally at the store implies a much higher price. The same person who makes a cigar for formal sale may supplement his or her income by making another for informal sale from the same supplies.
I found myself thinking again of the paintings at the warehouse by the docks. Lorenzo and Perla joined me on a jaunt back over there around 4PM. I lingered as I looked at the offered paintings, and at six my friends reminded me that the center would close soon. I decided to buy a painting of a church in Camaguey, the home town of Lorenzo’s father. It had just the right mix of definition and abstraction for my tastes. It was a small image with an up-front price of 10 CUC. Just to get into the spirit of the thing, we bargained the price down to 8 CUC, and I bought it.
I dithered back and forth over the second painting. I decided to purchase one featuring many major buildings of Havanna (the Capitolio and the Marti tower, for example), but it’s an abstract, with a hint of scaffolding on everything and the suggestion that remodeling must go much deeper than the facades of famous places. I think it will be a very useful reminder to me as I move to the developing world. We argued the price from 30 CUC to 25.
While Perla and I shopped paintings, Lorenzo had sought out candles for a baptism ceremony we would attend the next day. He wasn’t able to find the tall, white candles he really wanted, but he found some ornate lavender ones instead. It was a reminder that even with essentially unlimited resources you may not be able to find what you seek here. We reinforced that message as we tried multiple convenience stores to find some sodas to go with dinner.
Lorenzo had hoped to acquire tickets for that night’s ballet performance, but we discovered that they had already sold out. The ballet would be dancing to the greatest hits of Ernesto Lecuona, a brilliant classically-trained pianist (and friend to George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel) who applied his talents to capturing the distinctive features of Latin music in both classical and popular formats. Many people would recognize “Malaguena” or “Siboney” upon hearing them. Lorenzo was crestfallen that we’d missed the opportunity to get tickets. We considered the possibility of coming early to the show in hopes of finding spare tickets or buying tickets that had originally been acquired at CUP prices with CUC pesos. Later that night, I checked on Lorenzo to see what had come of the ballet plan, and I found him resting peacefully with a glass of “medicine” in his hand and a beatific smile on his face.
I returned to the apartment and wrapped an Ace bandage around my swollen ankle. Lorenzo’s medically-trained nephew had come through with a special present!