Why The Oakland A’s Are Not Playing Baseball Right Now.

                                                                           A Bubba Fantasy

My favorite baseball team, The Oakland Athletics, were getting ready to start their season and they asked me for some help finding talent.  I went to Cuba and found this guy chasing birds with a bat.

Cuban Plaza

 

Bird Chaser

I took him home and found out he wasn’t too bad at catching a ball either.

Catch

So we signed him up.  Things went well and then before you knew it:

A Grey Day

A Grey Day

He was gone and so was the season.

All color has gone out of baseball; there is no joy in O-town tonight.

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The Arts in Cuba and a Quick Departure

            Bubba is not known for his interest in the arts.  Remember, he is the one who got into a little trouble for trying to “fix” the Tower of Pisa.  When he was in Milan, he thought the Last Supper was something that happens at closing time in a bar.  In Cuba, he was able to appreciate a simpler style and he liked it.

            As I have been traveling around the country, I’ve seen some public artwork.  Mostly it is a big picture of a political hero, like this.

          Sometimes art took the form of a bust, like this one at the old Presidential Palace.  Please ignore the bullet holes in the wall behind it.  Art critics can be brutal.

            I decided to look a little deeper at the artist community.  I came across a screen printing shop.  This is a place where the old way is the best way.  Sometimes the older machines do the best work.

            They ended up with a great bare bones style.

          Of course architectural art in Cuba is everywhere.  There is a distinct faded elegance to buildings in Havana.  All you have to do is turn around and you can see  a once beautiful building showing its age like a faded movie star.  A few cracks and wrinkles but you can still see the great elegance that once existed.

            Like anywhere else in the world, give a guy enough paint and a brush and he’ll paint anything.

          I think that family group needed one more person so I posed for the artist.

          He immediately got his brush out and started working.  From his perch he could answer a call of nature and clean his brushes at the same time. 

          After viewing this next piece of public art, I decided maybe, just maybe, it was time to head home while I still had a head to head home with.

          My problem became one of how to get out.  Cuba charges an exit fee and I had no money.  I hit up my friend James for a few “CUC’s”.  He could only spare a few coins.

          I told Dave and Marina, that I would be able to share more of their vacation, since I was too broke to leave..  When faced with the idea of continued quality time with me, Dave reacted immediately.

          I was then able to leave Cuba.  This is a place like no other I have visited.  The people are immensely proud of their country and seem not to see the flaws.  Cuba is poised on the edge of big change.  Will they be able to reel in the big fish or will they be pulled into the sea.  This man fishing from the Malecon could be the symbol of Cuba’s future.

Music in Cuba

            Bubba is a fan of hardcore punk music.  He even sports a Mohawk of sorts on top of his head.  He thought he would have to have a rock and roll blackout in Cuba but found a replacement in the local style.

            Music is everywhere in Cuba.  When you live in a place with one television station (unless you know someone), and money is tight, then your entertainment choices are simpler.  I think everyone has a guitar, and drums are made of what you have at hand.  One of the best bands we saw had a set of bongos, a foot pedal activated cowbell and a cymbal.  I took a shot at playing the bongos myself.

            It was on the quiet side until I got some help.  It got a little jumpy then.

            Bands played everywhere and they all sell their homemade CDs .  One of the few approved items Americans can bring back is music so I stocked up.  Every time we ate, we had music and a smile from someone nearby.

            We found great music in the high end nightclubs like the famous Tropicana…

          To the stairs outside of an orchid sanctuary.

                        At night at the elegant Hotel Nacional …

 

 

 

                   To the daytime in a way overcrowded bar in Havana Viejo.

            And if there is music, there is dancing.

            If there is dancing, there must be a dancing school.  This was a ballet school where the students are picked for their ability, and appearance. 

 

As you can see, they all pretty much look the same.  With the rigorous selection comes a very dedicated group of students.  The next world famous Cuban ballerina is in this group somewhere.

          Maybe not the guy who tripped and fell on the floor.  I think he was there to meet the girls; he really wants to be a baseball player.

            Because Cuba has been somewhat isolated by being an island, by the U.S. embargo, and by being economically challenged, their music, like their food, architecture, and life in general, has not been tainted with the sameness that you find elsewhere.

            I’m Bubba.  I like Punk music. I have to admit though; I really enjoyed the music Cuba had to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buildings Of Cuba

 

The Buildings Of Cuba

            Bubba is making his way through Cuba.  He likes the cars, the cigars, and the rum and has written about each.  Today he looks a little closer.

            Cuba has some real contrasts and conflicts.  Since there is little variety in the products for sale, there is very little advertising.  We heard it called “propaganda”.  Instead of big billboards of advertising propaganda, I’ve seen a lot of this.

Which is…well…political propaganda I suppose.

            They also seem to be a little looser in their safety regulations.  I guess this guy is not a professional and doesn’t know this way of painting may be dangerous.

          If he was a professional, like these two workers, he would be painting in a safe manner.  Learn from the professionals.

            Building codes are a little different too.  In the U.S. if you want to build a home or add to an existing one you have to get permits, make sure the design is acceptable and bring everything “up to code”.  In Cuba, if you have a friend with a house and a few cinderblocks, you are set.

                        Security systems are pretty simple too.

            The wrought iron spikes might make it difficult but I think the power lines draped over the top would be the real deterrent. 

            Need a door?  A ladder and a hole in the ceiling will do just fine.

            Electricity is dangerous so the electric meters are done in a more exacting way.

          And if you need power for that house that suddenly appeared on the roof, just run the wires and plug it in.

            You can save money by not running the pipe all the way to the top of the wall and over.  Just punch a hole.  The painters will be back at work when they recover from their fall.

          I saw this sign.  Someone told me it was a warning sign.  I thought it was teaching me a new dance move.

            Cuba has never had a lot of money to do repairs.  Much of what we saw was described as “under restoration”.  Because of this, there has been little change over the years.  Cuba has retained some remarkable buildings.

          You can find some incredible details in out of the way places.  These doors were down the street from the homemade ladder and hole door in the earlier picture.

          Buildings aren’t demolished because they can’t be replaced so many of the old, colonial buildings still exist.

            Cuban architecture has an untouched feel that you don’t see in many places.  The Cuban people live with these buildings everyday and I had the feeling that they didn’t regard them as rare treasures so much as part of the fabric that makes up the country.  Not much has been built since the 50’s except government buildings.  They date from the Soviet era and stand out like sore thumbs in this land of the untouched and old.

            I got this shot on the fly of the Russian embassy while being chased by soviet agents.  Spy antenna?  What spy antenna?

            I think I’m going to enjoy the music and the arts in the next post.

 

Cuban Cigars

            I kind of liked the cigars that Ernie Hemingway gave me so I thought I would go out to the country to see where they are made.  I found this little hut on a farm.

            The door was open so I invited myself in.  Inside was this man.  I believe he was sent from central casting in Hollywood.  They asked for a Cuban Tobacco Farmer and they sent this guy.

            I asked why his hut had all this furry looking stuff hanging all over.  He explained that it was tobacco leaves set out to dry.

          I asked how these dried up piles of leaves turned into that nice smoke and he explained how the leaves are dried, cured and then rolled up.  He showed me and it certainly seemed easy enough.

          We hung out at his new car for awhile.

            Then he invited me into his house for a cuppa his home grown coffee and a cigar.

I SAW MILLIE!!

     I’ve been looking for her in all my travels and just can’t seem to connect.  I offered her a cigar but…

          She disappeared right after that.  I may have to give these things a second thought.  They don’t seem to be the plastic chick magnet I thought they would be.  It did attract these chicks though.

           I gave rolling my own a shot and got into a bit of a tangle so that the farmer had to assist me with it.

          Okay, I’ve learned a lot in Cuba so far.  Back off on the rum and the cigars.

Cuban Cigars, Rum, and Bucanero

            While looking at the big Barbie car, I noticed an intriguing establishment behind it. 

            I’ve had experience with pubs in many lands and this had all the right vibes.  I’m not too sure what a Daiquiri is, and it is too bad that some hood sprayed his name on the side of the building, but I would give it a try.

     Inside I met the Ernest fellow who said he was a writer.  I told him I saw his writing on the sign outside.   He told me he had just returned from Spain and was trying to put his experiences onto paper.  I told him about my adventures and he said he would write a book about them.  I told him about how my body parts can come off now and then and he told me he’d call the book “A Farewell To Arms”.

     I whispered a story in his ear about my trip to the Salton Sea.  He said he’d write about it and call it “The Old Man And The Sea”

     Who are you calling an old man, old man?  He took me to another of his hangouts.  It was a pretty crowded place but he still managed to get us a drop to drink.  It might have been because Ernie’s picture was everywhere here.

     Back at the Floridita, with a few more drinks dissolving my plastic innards, I started to feel an itching on my face.  Was I turning into Ernie Hemingway? 

     I thought I looked something like this Che guy I saw on the side of a wall.

       A few more drinks, and a beret from Che, and I was having the party of my life.  Havana Club Rum and the local Tu Kola combined to be the drink of the moment.  Viva Tu Kola!!

     Ernie threw in a couple cigars.  They were pretty big, and fire and plastic aren’t always good friends, but the rum kind of offset common sense.  Salude!!

     Ernie disappeared, saying something about hunting in Idaho.  It looked like I was on my own, and just a little impaired.  Things started getting a little blurry.  I understand I often look blurry in my pictures but, this time, I was seeing the blurry myself.  When I walked, there were little hurricanes swirling around my feet making the steps difficult.  Suddenly, the ground tilted and ….

     Things were getting out of hand.  I had reached my limit with rum.  I knew what I had to do.  It was a hard choice but I had to do it for my own good. 

                                                                    I switched to beer. 

Cuba has a wide variety of beers available; Cristal and Bucanero.  I dove right in…and was rescued immediately.  Luckily, I had befriended Hallie earlier in the trip.  She now saw me in peril and moved quickly to save me from further destruction.

     She plucked me from my Bucanero diving platform and explained the evils of my ways.  I vowed to change my ways and to never repeat my bad behavior.  Until next time.

                                                            Now those cigars were intriguing…

Cuban Cars

            Bubba, looking for a vacation in a cabana, ended up in Havana.

            After my welcome drink mojito and a great lunch to go with it, I checked into my hotel.  We were staying at the Meliá Cohiba.  My window had a great view of the Malecón and the Galerias Paseo.

          The big flower thing is a fountain that wasn’t working as it was under restoration.  I’ve always heard that Cuba has some wonderful cars.  It is true.  They don’t have a lot but they have some real classics.

          Some of the best ones are taxis and some are painted like taxis but I dunno.

          It is amazing what a coat of paint can do for a car.  Or to a car.

          There is nothing like spending a day at the seaside in a convertible.

          Then there were also these things.  They kind of reminded me of Ducklings.  The cars in the back look like something from Toon Town.

          Most of these cars looked better at a distance.  The brush stokes from the hand done paint jobs don’t show.  While there is a high percentage of old cars in Havana, it is a high percentage of a small number of vehicles overall.  Busses are always crowded to capacity.

          In the country, where motor vehicles are a little scarcer, the bus system is still crowded but a little more informal.

          I think they call it the Country Area Rapid Transit or CART.

          Oddly enough, this bus came through empty right afterwards.

          In any country you will always see those darn kids in their hot rods.

My friend, Kathy, decided to not wait for our transportation and took a local taxi back to our country hotel.

Many thanks to Marina and Spider for providing the pictures.