CUBA LIBRO – May 14, 2016

After breakfast, I return to my room to attempt to look, or at least smell, my best. We are going to join a March Against Homophobia on the Malecon. I put on my mighty fine ‘TRANSGENRE’ t-shirt, pink letters emblazoned on black, the shirt our Bennington class had printed in the summer of 2011. I’m ready to sort of rock this. Over a thousand gay Cubans, some very colorful, prance in the growing heat or gather in the spotty shade. For instance, a man in a gold loincloth, a witch on a motorcycle, a towering woman made even taller by her unwieldy headdress. And many shiny, exquisite, young men. A reporter and cameraman from CCN point their tools at me and ask questions only because Tracy has pushed me into their field of vision. I fumble for platitudes, yet never manage to state that I, too, am a homosexual. The march will start when Mariela Castro, Raul’s daughter, arrives to lead the procession. This could conceivably be never.

In any event, we need to rendezvous in the Hotel Nationale by 11:30. This pile was built in the ‘30s, and until the Revolution, reigned as Havana’s grande hotel. Its stature as such remains intact, even after many years on hiatus. Our group finds shelter in deep chairs on the deep veranda. This is where I misplace my Weta hat, my precious New Zealand souvenir.

Thalia herds us to Bus 3794. Our destination is Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigia, some miles to the south. No bus ride would be complete without lunch. We stop at La Terraza, in Cojimar, where Hemingway moored his boat, Pilar, and where he was, and still is, a folk hero to the local fishermen. We eat on the terrace, a choice of fish or fish. Hemingway’s great affection for Cuba is reciprocated. Everywhere he touched a shrine of some kind has been established.

Entering and leaving Cojimar, we pass an enormous, pink, derelict hotel, probably built a hundred years ago when sport fishing was becoming a lucrative business, back when men were men and marlin were marlin. It has elegant bones, definitely haunted.

We arrive at Finca Vigia, a modest villa on a hill. Visitors are kept outside the building because of the volume of traffic, yet this doesn’t matter in the least. All the windows are open and the house is a single story and small enough to allow light and air to pass through freely, so one gets a disconnected, yet intimate, feeling looking from the outside in. Books everywhere. Animal trophies everywhere. There’s a water buffalo or some such giant shaggy beast staring down at the master bed. Two notable elements in the bathroom – a three-shelf bookcase of bathroom reading and many wobbly columns of numbers scratched into the wall next to the scale, his weight. The finca’s great swimming pool is empty and its tennis court has been covered with a corrugated metal roof in order to provide shelter for the Pilar. It’s easy to imagine the boat full of half-drunk ‘cowboys’ hunting Nazis.

Rogelio guides us back to Plaza de Armas, where 3794 must always park since vehicular traffic is forbidden in Habana Vieja. I try to pull myself together for workshop, because today’s my turn. Workshop is always interesting. I learn something every time. The upshot is The Bitter Bitches needs work. I have the fleeting thought I could stayed home.

Dinner has been arranged at a rooftop restaurant. I sit at one end of the table with two of the five Emerson girls. The united front they usually present is fragmented for the moment, and they turn out to be genial, smart, neurotic undergrads. Who knew? Later, Tim has reserved a table at the club where the remaining members of the Buena Vista Social Club play. The music is remarkably satisfying, but I’m not in the mood. I stay to watch Mary, one of the Emerson students, cut a confident rug with one of the roving dance dudes. It does my heart good and I split. I hear there was a conga line.


one thought on “CUBA LIBRO – May 14, 2016

  1. I did not know that the lettering on the Transgenre t-shirt was pink. Perfect.

    According to Wikipedia, guests at the Hotel Nationale included: “Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Rómulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre.”

    Could they all meet in the bar, please?

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