Recently on “Let me tell you,” my favorite Cuban television program, they were talking about parking attendants. I laughed a great deal over the description of the parking rates, directly proportional to the quality of the car and the nationality of the driver of course.
But most amazing of all is the break a driver feels when he goes to park and sees the parking attendant in the far distance; if he’s not there the chance of just running off is high. Are there parking lots without attendants in Cuba? Because the truth is I don’t know, the parking spaces have slowly been taken over by these workers. The funny thing is you can’t park any more without them, because if you do the car runs the risk of cruel and multiple amputations. It’s completely normal to see drivers with their CD players walking down the street, it wouldn’t occur to anyone to leave the player in the car.
The other day they tried to steal my neighbor’s car at two in the afternoon. He parks quite far from the house because that’s what he could “get,” so during the day he leaves the car in an “unprotected area” in front of the building. Some guys in a Lada stopped right in front of it and one of them jumped out and tried to force the door. At that one of the neighbors saw him and raised the alarm, so they ran off and couldn’t take anything.
It turned out the license plate was blue, meaning the car belonged to a State ministry or institution and later, after going to the police, he learned that it belonged to the Union of Young Communists headquarters. My neighbor made several attempts with the police but nothing came of it; one of the investigators in charge of the case said:
“Look buddy, here’s what I’d advise if you want to resolve this, take a month’s vacation from work so you can take care of the investigation and the interviews.”
My neighbor of course gave up going after the culprits… after all, in the end they didn’t take anything.
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.