Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Life seemed fluid, intense, and warm in the busy streets of Havana." -- Langston Hughes

In the late morning, while seeing Rosemary off, we discover Eumelia can't take us for our last night -- her previous guest has appendicitis and can't checkout. This means we have no place to stay our last night in Cuba, and no chance to hear for a last time the music that is Centro Habana after dark.

Many calls later, we relocate to a different room in the same building instead. After settling the family in, I head out for a final afternoon, delivering our parents' medical donations to Julio and Elsa's in Centro Habana, and searching again for records. These two objectives converge. I mention my record ambition to Elsa in passing, and it turns out her cleaning lady has plenty and will bring them tomorrow! Elsa recommends some other possible record locations, as well as Santeria places to visit, so I venture for out my final walk, also planning to find an Etecsa Internet place and use up the time on my card.

Sometimes in this last day, walking alone in Havana, it seems I'm nothing but a walking cash cow that every Cuban is intent on milking dry. I get offered cigars over ten times in one block west of the Capitolio. I have to admire the optimism that each of these guys displays -- that somehow their "Cigar, friend?" or "Cohiba, fresh!" is the first I've heard or is that much more persuasive than its endless kin. I'm made to pay for checking my bag at stores. Convertibles are demanded for ice cream, popcorn, the most ridiculous things.

I've really had enough of this. Get me to a place where someone talks to me because they want a connection, not just my money. Let one cab driver offer me a ride on the meter, instead of into their pocket.

Then it happens. I get into a cab with a young driver who blasts Ebe Manuel out the jacked sound system as we jockey through the dirty, sun-blackened streets of central Havana. Conversation is easy. He honks at a pretty girl -- honks a bunch, actually -- and she gives him a delightfully saucy "go to hell" move.

A young girl with her mom at a street corner is eating a piece of cake. We're all stopped at the same light, so I call out the window, "It's good, yeah?" She nods, and the movement knocks the top of her cake off, into the street. We all start laughing in sympathy. I call her over to the cab. "Here's something to resolve it," and offer her my last fruit leather.

I may be passing through Havana now, not arguably of it, but the connection is back. The human gestures. The laughing people calling to each other across traffic. It's like a goodbye kiss from the streets.
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