The difference between being young and being older is a simple one. When you're young you dream of things you'll one day do or feel or achieve. You dream of possibilities. When you're older you ponder the things you'll probably never do or experience.
All my life, probably since the age of 8 and upwards my father Dan and mother Felicia ( Litzi ) recounted stories to my brother Alexander and I, enchanting and engrossing tales of their life together, their love, their work, their associations, their hopes and fears and troubles, their obstacles, triumphs and adventures.
After meeting each other in a bar, at a piano, which my father played, just after the war, in Tel-Aviv, they married and returned to say goodbye to there respective Romanian Families and then took a boat to the sexiest country in the world, Cuba. It's these stories of their enamoured youth here in this country, here in L'Habana, where they created a rich life, where I am now, that resonate with me the most. I remember more about my early childhood than of what happened 2 years ago.
Just yesterday I was blessed once again. I say this because, what I did, was extraordinary and there's no way I could've done it alone.
Before I left Australia for Havana my bro Alexander, god bless him, was kind enough to give me the deeds to the house that was once my Parents'. I say "was" because although we still "legally" own it, we "legally" don't anymore, because it was appropriated by the communists when Fidel took over. So really we don't have a right to it anymore. Wrong is right and right is wrong. Everything changes. Very Zen.
I always wanted to find that place, my first home.
Well, just yesterday my good friend Alberto and his friend Ivan came to pick me up at 9.30 a.m to find the house. It's been 54 years since we left it. In those days the streets and addresses were all different. There were no street numbers as such and instead, this house was listed in the deed as a lot, in a certain area called "CLUB CAMPESTRE km 23" in Bauta, on the outskirts of L'habana near PUNTA Brava, in the countryside.
Anyway, the salient factor that determined our success in finding this place was that I remembered from my early childhood that there was a railway track on the right side of this grandiose colonial mansion, and when the sugar cane trains came by, the workmen on the train would always throw a few bundles onto our property and wave to me and shout out my name. I would love sucking the juice out of the cane. So when we found the street in that area we began to search for, and immediately found the track, all but gone, but still kind of there.
Now, because the track was on the right side of the house, there could only be two corners where the house could've been situated, at diagonals of the crossroad. Outside in the garden of one of these corners, on our left, on the patio was an old woman who was painting her wrought iron chairs. We stopped the car, got out, walked into her yard and then asked her if she knew anything about what was here before. How lucky for me that she was actually there that day at that precise time of day. I showed her a photo on my ipad. She was gobsmacked.
I asked her some questions and then she began to open up with her story. I asked her many questions and the past unfurled into my world and her words seemed to tumble from her lips like falling, floating Autumn leaves.
I walked around her humble little country house to take it all in and just remember and imagine myself as a child again. Memories whispered to me like the gentle breeze that caressed my skin on this sunny, lovely day. I remembered running down the road full of excitement on my way home from playing and falling over because when I was little I used to have knock knees and was always tripping over myself, till my parents bought me corrective boots.
Our home had undergone many metamorphoses since we'd left and finally, after all but cascade to the ground like a sad, old elephant it was finally put out of it's misery and felled to earth by bulldozers as were all the giant palms and the Mango tree that was the centre point of a row of palms that once stood at the back of the house way behind the swimming pool.
She told us that she and her family had lived there for 45 years. The house was knocked down 15 years ago....as it had been taken over by the government, was then, amongst other functions turned into headquarters for a chicken farm. Her husband had been the Vet there.
Any way I've captured about half an hour on film with her telling her story, with Alberto, with me and Ivan too.......she remembered the house very well room by room, wall by crumbling wall. Her son tried to jump off the roof once, she remembered the shape of the swimming pool and showed me where everything had been situated....the enormous fountain in front of the mansion that dominated the driveway, ( I remember my father telling me a story how when he used to come home late at night from the his club that he would often see the ghost of a woman sitting at the fountain. ) the pool, ( I stood in it's former space and pretended to swim to make her laugh and remembered how as a child I had placed my small toy plastic red and blue boat with lit candles on top, in the pool. It had started to rain so I ran into the house forgetting that I'd left the boat in the pool. When it had finally stopped raining I remembered the boat and ran out to the pool only to find a floating melted blob of red and blue plastic.). , the chauffeur's quarters (the chauffeur who had once caught me in his arms when I fell off my horse. My father had gotten upset that the horse had thrown me and decided to swap it for a cow.).... and the old lady, the new legal owner of this once glorious property and I concurred utilising her memories and my recollections and photos. Perfect match.
The whole episode was a quiet but immense shock to my spirit, like coming to say hello and goodbye at the same time....melancholy and relief all bundled up....washing over me like a gentle Tsunami.
Her house there now is small and simple, with giant pigs, healthy chickens, rabbits and herbs at the back behind here humble dwellings. She spoke of all the giant palms that used to line the perimeter of the property with a huge mango tree which stood at the centre point of the palms behind the house, which were all torn down for safety because of cyclones.
She showed me that where the pool used to be it's always more muddy and the earth is softer.
And the train line of course, which I always remembered was right there on the right side of the house. The train line, onto which I once threw chickens with my retarded accomplice friend Raphi who was the son of an American consul. Raphi was older than me but slightly retarded, so mentally we were about the same. I got into huge trouble from my father who locked me in the huge dark basement of the house as punishment for my murderous crime. I told her that story and of course she remembered the basement, she'd been inside and told me how she always had to keep an eye on her children because they were always playing in the old house which was falling apart and becoming more and more dangerous to live in.
I asked her if she had any relics, doors, a piece of wood, nails, bolts, door knocker, anything ...she said nope, nothing Georgito...only the dirt at our feet and the dry sand that we sometimes use to make concrete to repair this little house.
She said that next time when I return to Cuba I should drop by and see that her place will look much better. I said yeah...and maybe I'll cook you dinner.
So we left, and I let out a big sigh. We drove back to old Havana, we ate lunch at a great place and then Alberto drove me home. I thanked Alberto and Ivan for the honour of accompanying me on my soul's mission. I had a wee siesta and then at 2pm walked to Coto's house to play and work on some more music.
So I guess I've achieved one more of all the great things I've always wanted to do and when I get older I'll have less of a bucket list.
But as my father once told me,.." Without dreams, a man is nothing."