Live from Havana - Day 5, Day 6

Havana Day 5

Today I visited the studio of Zaida del Rio, one of the country’s best known artists, who showed us some beautiful new work. Her son was in the middle of a canvas as well; nice to see the family business going strong. Bought a small piece for a special friend having health challenges—it was one of those, this painting reminds me of you moments.

For some reason breakfast never materialized, and I was starving by the time I arrived at Roberto Salas’ house for lunch. He and his excellent wife prepared an exquisite lunch of shrimp and lobster for Rick, Carolina Sanchez of the Ministry of Culture, and myself. Roberto nearly choked when he saw the amount of Tabasco I put on my rice. I am desperate for heat in my food here, as the Cuban palate likes it “3” on the 1-10 scale of spicy. Always the raconteur, Roberto had a story or two to tell. Born in the Bronx, chased away by the FBI, he landed in Cuba as a teenager in the 50s and ended up taking some of the most iconic photos of the era. His current work is stunning, and he has an opinion about everything.

After a pre-production meeting with Chile, our cinematographer, I had to make the tough decision to forego an ungodly jazz show to return home and finish prepping for the next day’s shoot. I did a fair amount of agonizing as my maquina, a 1956, smelly blue Dodge, rambled past the Teatro Mella, which beckoned me. But the work ethic won out—this time. Did not want to show up on location with people asking, “what?” and my having no response.

And it was a good thing. I was a bit slow on my feet at the start of the shoot the following morning. Ivan Soca was our subject. Ivan has photographed Cuban musicians from Silvio Rodriguez to Los Van Van to Leo Brauer to Cuba’s greatest singers. An incisive guy with critical sensibilities and a winning laugh, Ivan talks about the economía solidaria (barter economy, basically), a concept we tried to use at lunch when the bill arrived; his years as a diplomat’s son in Berlin when the wall fell, and his beloved Lancia, one of the few Italian autos on the island. We had an excellent shoot, with Chile lovingly recording the car’s details and capturing life through Ivan’s lens.

FIga, our sound recordist, and Luz, his lovely partner, were married tonight in a recently rehabbed church in Vedado.  The chorus sang from a terrace that wrapped around three sides of the chapel, and had an other-worldly feel, as we could not see them. I still cry at weddings

I managed to squeeze in a little jazz. For some reason, Billy Gibbons opened , and in this context I found his band quite boring. 4:4 rock with marginal lyricsjust cannot stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cuban jazz. But I’ll give them this—they did a rocking encore of Whole Lotta Love, singing the chorus in Spanish (“Got mucho amor, “mucho amor,” etc.).

Tomorrow is my last full day here, and I’m meeting two potential characters for our series, (R)evolution Cuba: Stories of Art and Change.