I'm sitting on a chair at my small table on my balcony within the big 5 roomed house of Neida, where I live in L'habana Vieja. It's just outside my room and its open to the sky as is all the centre of this large house. I'm surrounded by some hanging tropical plants and some on the floor in Terracotta pots. The floor is covered in big light brown and beige tiles with patterns of squares and small leaves. My balcony overlooks the other rooms downstairs. My room is the best I think. It's relatively private and I can play my guitar into the wee small hours. It's now 5 pm and the sounds around me coming from the street and other apartments is a veritable smorgasbord of audio delight. Cuban Music, mothers yelling at their children and their boyfriends and husbands, children laughing and playing, street vendors calling out their wares, cars honking, small ice cream carts playing their recorded corny tunes; " Green Sleeves ( of course ), Happy Birthday To You, There's No Place like Home, Star Spangled Banner ( hard to believe ) ...et al.
And the smells coming at me form everywhere. Mostly the odours of food cooking. The smell of sauces and onions and meats and corn fritters and chicharron, ( deep fried pork fat ) ....yeah baby, I'm in earthly heaven.
It's been raining torrentially for 2 days now which is peculiar for this time of year in Cuba. Last night, just as I left the house it began to drizzle. Then down it came. Like Noah's downpour. Everyone in the street ran for cover wherever they could find some; Under awnings, into shops, restaurants, markets, hotels, cafes.Where ever there was shelter people huddled. The water in the streets flowed like a river. I found cover in the Pattiserie Francaise at the entrance of the Hotel Inglaterrre on Caille Prado. The place was packed with wet people.........." I....see...wet people"......
Next to me stood a pretty, slim Morena, ( black girl). Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun with a red and white polka dotted bow. She wore a sleeveless red top with frills, tight, white jeans and high heels. She had heavily pencilled eyebrows, red lipstick on full luscious lips with a silver stud above her top lip.
She came over, smiled and asked me where I'm from. I told her that I was born here in Havana but that I've lived in Australia practically all my life, after Fidel's Revolution. She asked me if I live close by. I said "yes" and asked her if she did as well. She told me she lived not far way, but in another municipality. She asked me my name and told me hers. I told her mine and then asked her what she does for work here in Havana. She made a face and said that she doesn't work. I asked her why and she answered, " It doesn't interest me ".
We made some small talk about the river outside that now careered down Prado, then merely gazed out at Wet Havana, at Central Park. After about 3 minuites or so of silence between us she turned to me and said, " Georgito " ( like saying Georgy ). I knew what was coming next. She said " Georgito, can you help me with a little money? I need to eat."
And I said...." No."
After that she stopped talking to me. No small talk. Not even tiny talk. Sometimes talk is not cheap.
A few minuites ago a fisherman came by the house and sold me a gorgeous big fat fish.
No bones, all filleted. The fish...BONITO....that's it's name. I've packed parcels of this ocean treasure away in the freezer, to eat another time. If I eat a lot of fish every night it will last me about 10 days. I love cooking. It's one of the few things that relaxes me.
Today I walked from my house along the entire Malecon and had lunch at the small battlement Castle which dates back to the 1600s and sits on the point at the very end of the Malecon. It's now a restaurant. I ate chorizo steeped in a rich salsa, bread and salad. I drank my favourite soft drink, MALTA...it's a sweet and wonderful, full- bodied, dark brown fizzy drink made from wheat that my mother used to mix with condensed milk and feed me here in Cuba when I was an infant. All Cuban mothers do this. Its very healthy. It shits on Coke and brings back ancient memories of my enchanted childhood, whereas Coke doesn't really offer memories of real substance, although Coke, as they claim, is "THE REAL THING".
Yep..... it was such a long walk along the Malecon, especially with all the post rain humidity and soaring heat. 4 or five kilometres took me a little over an hour, but the lunch at the end of the trek was worth it. Walking cleanses the mind too.
Now I'm sore all over. I hope I sleep well tonight....I really do. If I don't, I guess I'll just get up, go out and keep walking.