I'm going to 23rd and 16th to buy a hotdog. I get there and there are no tables outside, generally people get the hot dogs to-go, so I go in and sit at one of the tables inside. Five minutes go by and then one of the waitresses comes by and says, while looking toward the counter:
Obviously I didn’t understand so I obediently stayed in my seat waiting. Then the counter girl called me:
I get up and walk over to her, strangely she doesn’t say a single word but continues some incomprehensible conversation with the other waitresses, the last one is listening and at the same time humming a song playing on the TV. In a moment she looks at me, takes a torn piece of paper, and says:
- How many? - Two.
I pay and she writes something strange on the paper, gives it to me and nodding toward the kitchen says:
- Give it to Ugly there.
Ugly there was the cook. I walk over to the kitchen pass-through and give him the paper. I return to my table, still vacant, and sit and wait. Soon I realize there are two dogs on a plate in the pass-through, the guy signals me from the stove to come and get them.
I get up again and grab them and return to the table to fix them but then I realize there’s no mustard or ketchup, there isn’t even any on the empty tables. At that point I’d already realized I couldn’t count on the servers. A bit annoyed, I approach one of the occupied tables and ask if I can use theirs. As it seems the normal thing to do they told me yes quite calmly, I put a bit of everything on my dogs and left.
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.