Sunday, March 28, 2010

Arts and Letters

I appreciate any cinema that puts the director’s name on the marquee and I enjoyed Michael Mann’s ‘Enemigos Publicos’ (with its several references to Cuba) at the Payret. It is a vast classical cinema that allows patrons to bring in their own cold beers.

Cuba has lots of bookshops. Most have English sections. Most books appear to be the writings or speeches of Fidel, Che, or Noam Chomsky but to be fair you can also see in and amongst those titles a separate genre: books written about Fidel, Che, and probably Noam Chomsky too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baseball in Cuba

Children (mostly boys) play improvised baseball games everywhere. I saw one boy batting with an empty 2 litre Coke bottle.

Devotees play overlapping games all around the national Capatolio building where I was called up as a pinch-hitter in an afternoon game between two unidentified teams.

I stared down the pitcher – which was not hard – and assumed my batting stance, crouching low to shrink the strike zone to his level. He wound up and delivered what was either a changeup or simply his best fastball. I lifted my left leg and hit the ball over the infielders and set off – at which point I realized I didn’t know where the bases were. ‘Donde el baso una?’ I yelled, and an infielder pointed to a tree beside the corner of the Capatolio. I reached first safely and feeling confident took a big lead towards where geometry led me to expect another base. The next batter popped a high fly ball and I tagged up at my tree, but the fielder caught it and apparently that was the third out. I had been sent in on a clean-up role and failed. I retired as the oldest player (by about 35 or 40 years) in the league.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dining in Cuba

The Paella Restaurant in the Hotel Valencia was my favourite – the only place where I ate twice. I ordered their cheese plate and washed chunks of Stilton wrapped in slices of mozerella down with a Merlot for an absolute taste orgasm. The Paella and a couple of other restaurants I liked have a delicious dish of thick succulent slices of chicken, beef and pork in a subtle glaze.

Once I discovered that my hotel breakfast could include a juicy hamburger with mozzarella I ordered nothing else for the rest of my mornings. When I went to Cuba in the eighties (to Varadero, not Havana) I was disappointed by the blandness of the food but eating this last week has been a delight.

All Havana service industry staff – even in the lowest of dives and even where only locals and people like me eat and drink – wear black and white uniforms. You even sometimes see people dressed this way patronizing establishments on their way to and from work.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I'm about to return to Haiti after a great holiday in Havana.

Links to more pictures here

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I am in Havana on Rest and Recuperation from Haiti, where I worked never less than ten hours a day from February 2 until March 27. So far I have done little more than sleeping, reading a book about Cuba and the CIA, and walking around (and taking my first bath since October) but I’ll be taking a tour of the city tomorrow and making a start on the museums.

Although I am one of very many tourists I’m discovering Havana seem wonderfully uncommercial. I’m in a charming hotel that is full of colour and flowers – with no advertising or tackiness.

(NOTE: The water was that colour when it came out of the tap.)

There really are old American cars here. At least one I noticed (shown last below) would have been quite old even at the revolution. As many of these beauties are taxis I might get a ride in one but the taxi from the airport was a Kia - and seemed to be in worse condition than these.

I'd like to caption these - can anybody identify them?