Satie’s Gymnopedies, that’s what I always here in my head every time my plane rises off the tarmac in Havana following a visit – be it for work in the old days when I was putting pen to paper as a wire service journalist, or on a family visit, as was the case this time.
That one piece of music is perfect. Beautiful, yet sad, just like the island. Not once have I failed to select it on my MP3 player during take-off. Nose pressed to the cabin window, my ritual is always the same—I stare down at the long, skinny form of Cuba for as long as I can see her . . . for as long as I can see my family. I no longer shed tears during those takeoffs. Why give Fidel and Raul the satisfaction? Fact is, I know their time is running out, and mine is only just getting started. The moment they exhale their last bits of oxygen into the atmosphere, setting that precious air free to be inhaled by another—perhaps even one of us—their world will become black. I doubt there will be any warm, glowing white light. I don’t believe Angel Castro will be standing at the end of a long corridor, waiting to greet his sons. They will simply cease to be.
I visited Cuba for two weeks this time, in a completely different capacity than that to which I had become accustomed. I had always set off for Havana to report on some story or support the production of some documentary. I had never gone strictly to visit family. Recently, I left the hard news business and I found myself in a bit of a moral quandary: do I force myself into a self-imposed exile from the island or yield to genetics and family bonds? I yielded and luckily, that choice was rewarded. Strings are being pulled, angles are being worked, and it looks like one of my favorite cousins will soon be in la Yuma. In short, this trip was well worth it.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be popping in from time-to-time with stories from my most recent trip to the island. That said, should anyone have any questions, feel free to pass them on in the comments section. I will answer them as honestly, and candidly as I can. Nothing is off the table, so go for it.
8 thoughts on “Waiting to Exhale”
Do you like Christopher Parkening’s version on classical guitar?
Who’s the pianist? It sounds like Ciccolini.
George: You are correct, sir!
For sentimental reasons, the Blood Sweat and Tears variations never fail to blow my mind.
That’s the set of the complete piano music I have. He’s a great, but little known, pianist
As someone who visited recently, if I had listened to that when I left it would have killed me.
Question – When I came back the first thing I did was see my parents, I cried with them and thanked them for leaving Cuba when they did, and I honor them even more now that I see the slavery they escaped from. Still, some perceptions I had before were shattered in relation to how I felt towards those still on the island. Do you find yourself sharing similar feelings towards those folks still there?
In all honesty, the folks who remained behind are just the same people we have always known – die-hard anti-Fidelistas. Their bravery is reflected in the way that if any one of them wants to leave, they’ll get the help they need. And those who choose to stay, do so out of a desire to be there when change happens, to see it, to never give in to the two brothers. I commend them for it. 100%.
I didn’t encounter any die-hard anti-Fidelistas sadly. My friend’s family were despondent and tired; finding solace in family and in the little things most days and rarely smiling. My own family — most of whom were right there with Fidel when he took over — are broken yet unwilling to say anything against the revolution. It was very sad. When I went to Cuba last year, I found that everyone — even those who were with the regime at one point — was just really ragged. There’s a general destruction of the soul it seems. Since our visit was more of a spiritual/ missional trip this was our perception. We found a broken island full of broken people in desperation.
I’m glad you shared the “anti-Fidelista” perspective. I’m afraid some (not all) of our people in exile have an “us vs. them” perception of our people in Cuba because it’s easier to generalize and be angry. I’d rather be vigilant and on guard, while at the same time being civil and sympathetic.
I’d like to speak with you more on this subject if possible. Si te interesa, let me know via my blog.
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