I waited at 23rd and 10th to get the P4 bus at 7:00 in the morning and got to my destination (Playa) at 9:45. I tried to get on board three buses but I couldn’t do it, and the rest of the time I spent trying to catch a 10 peso taxi, but there were none. A bit strange, what’s happening, I asked myself, while looking up and down a deserted 23rd, normally crammed with taxis.
At 4:00 in the afternoon I was well informed, no one in Havana was talking about anything else: There is an operation and they are seizing cars and so the drivers, of course, are terrified and no one wants to operate. I have several comments on the matter:
- At the bus stations they’re conducting a special operation, confiscating the cars “on site.” Despite numerous calls from the drivers to their contacts in the PNR (National Revolutionary Police), no one can do anything about it. - Until recently they were giving out licenses, but not anymore. - A license is unique and not transferable, and represents the car and the owner; this means that only the owner of the car can drive it, not a friend, nor a relative nor absolutely anyone else in the universe.
The consequences? Always the same. Everyone who went by car now has to go by bus. If before it could take you an hour to get aboard, now it can take three, and in 24 hours we’ve returned to the Golden Age of the Post-Transportation Revolution.
Why is the government taking these measures? Beyond control and repression I can’t stop thinking that they must be getting something more, but what? Why not give the licensees a little more flexibility and increase the tax money coming in? Now the bus stops are a crush of people and getting to work is a hardship, with people arriving late or not at all. Not in its wildest dreams can the state transport system meet the demand and nobody wins: not the people, not the taxi drivers and not the state.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.