CUBA LIBRO, Volume Two – April 29, 2017

This morning, Orelvis and Chinese Bus #5050 are waiting to take us to the Havana Compas Dance Company. This lovely ensemble creates magnetic dances that incorporate direct percussion with flamenco and tap flourishes. The troupe that danced for us was all young women. There are many seat-of-the-pants artistic enterprises like this throughout the island. They channel the island’s enormous creative energy. The arts are everywhere.

From there, we visit another vibrant community initiative called Muraleando that has created a community space from a derelict and garbage-impacted, hilltop water tank. They get many buses stopping by for a ‘people-to-people’ cultural exchange, the declared justification for our visit. Fanciful and weather-beaten art everywhere. Victor, the PR guy, i.e. the best English speaker, acts like a deranged social director insisting on universal fun and admiration. I ignore him fiercely. Lunch is tasty and al fresco, but the musical entertainment is tiresome. Some writers do dance and dance with gusto and grace.

From there, we’re bound for Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s hilltop villa. His third wife, Pauline, insisted that if they were going to live in Cuba they would live comfortably in a house: no more hotels. Finca Vigia lies fifteen miles outside Havana, with wide vistas and welcome breezes. The compound had a big and very deep swimming pool (see: naked, Ava Gardner), a tennis court, and a three-story tower with EH’s writing study at the top. The tin-roofed shed (née: tennis court) now acts as the permanent dry dock for Hemingway’s 38-foot boat, the Pilar. Visitors are not allowed inside the villa, but the house is compact and transparent enough that circling it and peering through the windows offers a delectably intimate impression of their life together, along with views of the other peerers on the other side of the house. Their stuff is all here, all of it arrayed artfully. How do the books and animal heads survive, open to the elements as they are?

Eventually, I wander down the slope to the gift shop to be uninspired and perhaps sit. A small segment of our small group can be found drinking some grim blue cocktail, probably called ‘The Sun Also Sets.’ Alden asks if I am up to hearing my personal post-workshop follow-up. Oh kay. Right at the top she acknowledges the rudeness of the damning participant. Whew and So Fucking What. The useful adage – Consider the Source – come fully into play here.

There’s some ‘down’ time after our return to Hotel Telegrafo. I write and nap and once again embark on the foolish quest for cyber-oneness. Telegrafo truly sucks. Maybe I’d have better luck back at Ambos Mundos, or the Parque Central a block away. Wandering through the Parque Central lobby, I chance upon Alden sipping cafe con leche and invite myself to sit across from her. Instead of fulfilling our intentions to write and annotate and send gay and pertinent emails to the worthy and unworthy, we gab and laugh. Soon enough, other group members mosey through the doors and my field of vision, then up the stairs to the mezzanine and a ‘boardroom’ for Tim’s lecture on Cuban history up to La Revolucion.

Tonight we must forage on our own. I shepherd seven of us to La Girardilla, where Dona and Tracy and I ate last year on the recommendation of Jane, my sunny sister. We stroll down the Prado, encountering a circle of hyper-energetic capoeira performers, then turn left on the Malecon (technically Avenida del Puerto). The breeze off the ocean is incredibly bracing. At the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, we shift inland a bit to La Girardilla. The seven of us take the last two tables. Because of this, service is extremely leisurely. Nevertheless, the meal is very mellow and genial. Gratitude all around.

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