Ten days ago I started coming down with a cough and a cold. I went to the pharmacy to buy some cough syrup, vitamins and acetaminophen, to prepare for my first cold of the summer. They had nothing. As the most important thing is to stay hydrated, I became resigned to curing myself with water. On the fifth day it wasn’t gong very well so I went back to the doctor who listened to my lungs and diagnosed me with asthma. As I had no fever, muscles aches or headaches, he ruled out H1N1 and ordered a spray.
Twenty-four hours later I was still breathing badly so I went to bother a friend who is a doctor and who always ends up saddled with me. She didn’t have to do any more than listen with a stethoscope to my back to tell me:
- Of course the spray hasn’t done anything, you don’t have asthma, it’s settling in the lungs… in two days you’ll have pneumonia if you don’t start taking antibiotics.
Luckily I'm already well, a gift between friends yielded:
- two tubes of vitamin C - one tube of vitamins - a strip of Dipyrone, an anti-inflammatory.
I have to take the bull by the horns once more against the Cuban health system. Talking to people I know, for example, a doctor is not authorized to prescribe medicine that they don’t have at the pharmacy. For example, if you have a cold and the pharmacy doesn't have anything to buy, neither cough syrups nor vitamins. Then the usual thing would be to ask the doctor if the medicine can be bought at an international pharmacy or to ask a family member abroad, but the doctor is not authorized to give that answer.
In a case where it’s not possible to get the medicine, not even in CUCs and you don’t have family abroad, then it’s assumed that you have the right to appeal for the medicine through Law 232, which says that the state will arrange to buy and distribute it. I have two friends who have been in this situation, neither of the two managed to even start the paperwork because the doctor who saw them thought the case wasn’t sufficiently important to be presented to the pharmacological commission that reviews it and then elevates it to the ministry, where they review it again and approve it. In the first case the person died from chronic heart failure and the second person is losing their sight for lack of a vitamin.
(…) It’s not a question of shouting Fatherland or Death, Down with Imperialism (Applause), the blockade hits us and the earth there, waiting for our sweat. (…)
With the monolithic unity of our people, its strongest army, forged in the crucible of the struggle under the direction of the Leader of the Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz (…)
Speech delivered by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministers, at the central commemoration of the 56th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes barracks, in the Plaza Mayor General "Calixto García", Holguín, July 26, 2009, “Year of the 50th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution.”
I’m not good at remembering quotes, however I am sure that the last time I heard Raúl Castro speak about unity he had a tagline “in the diversity.” To what do we owe this sudden change in semantics? In a few months we’ve left off being diverse to convert ourselves into a block of reinforced concrete?
It seems crazy to me that the general still dreams of the fallacy of a monolithic people… Is it that after so many decades before an audience in red T-shirts, olive-green caps or white guayabera shirts with their hands raised he has forgotten how the world outside the auditorium functions?
To make it to seventy with a vision of the surrounding world that is so wrong is terribly depressing. It took him 50 years to realize that “Fatherland or Death” is a vacuous expression, I hope (for his mental health), that it doesn’t take 50 more for him to understand that “the monolithic unity” is as well.
At Cepero Bonilla high school this year the physics teacher failed 500 students. My neighbor’s daughter was one of the victims of the “terrible” 61-year-old teacher who “knows it all.” He failed the girl and her mother went to protest at the school, where she didn’t expect to meet the other 500 parents at the door.
No one could enter the school: not even the children of mom and pop could enter, she told me, meanwhile poking me in the right shoulder. She heard, in the middle of the poking, a lieutenant colonel shout he’d blow the teacher’s brains out if his son lost a year.
As she’s a buddy of the English teacher, who is even more appalled by the attitude of the physics teacher, she managed to slip in and talk with the one “responsible” for the failure of the students. The first thing she asked him was why he hadn’t given her daughter, who is so good in all other things and always participates in political activities, the grade she needed to meet the teacher's standard. She received a negative response which annoyed her but there was nothing she could do: the girl will have to be re-evaluated along with her 499 classmates and come back to retake the exam.
Meanwhile, I got the whole story from another neighbor, even more horrified than the English teacher, who encouraged her to be careful, because she was sure that the teacher “had it in for the girl” for “some reason.”
It seems that no one seems to realize in this country that when a student fails an exam it’s because she doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to show she’s mastered the material of the school year and that, obviously, she needs to study it again.
Without batting an eye, I arrived at quarter past six for the Pedro Luis Ferrar concert at the National Museum of Belles Artes in Old Havana, accompanied by two friends. One of them was surprised to see “apparent civilians” posted in military positions behind the uniformed guards of the museum… but I didn’t see them.
When we were buying our tickets a man came and introduced himself as the director of the theater and smilingly asked us to accompany him. I knew what it was about but something inside me said no, it wasn’t possible. I felt sorry for my two friends who, without eating or drinking, stared wide eyed at what is known around here as “The Clerks of Cuban Culture.”
The man told us that the institution reserves the right to refuse admission and we could not enter because we’d participated in a provocative action “against this” during the Havana Biennial. My girlfriends had no idea what he was talking about but I asked him if he could be more specific and he said that we were being denied entry for having spoken into Wilfredo Lam’s microphone during “The Whisper of Tatlin” performance of Tania Bruguera.
I told him I’d been there but that surely there was a mistake because many people had been there that day; he asked me to wait a minute and went off to “consult.” A woman came and asked,
- Which one of you is Claudia?
I raised my hand as before, and the man came with another woman who held back a little.
- Claudia, I’m sorry, the museum reserves the right to refuse admission and they called to tell us that you cannot enter.
- Are you aware of the sad role they’ve put you in?
- Yes, I’m sorry.
At this the one who had held back stepped forward:
- There is no sad role, you are a provocateur and you can’t enter.
- Madam, on what are you basing your statement that I came her to provoke something?
- You participated in the performance of Tania Bruguera, I was there.
- Yes, I spoke into a microphone that was open for the whole world for one minute each, everyone who wanted to could speak.
- You can do it here.
- Do you know what a performance is?
- It’s not obvious. Don’t you realize you are acting as a segregating and discriminating agent of Cuban culture?
- You are not showing me respect.
- Madam, you have failed to show me respect since I came here.
She wasn’t going to stop watching me until the concert was over so I left, and also I couldn’t ask my poor companions to pay for something they hadn’t been able to enjoy for one minute in the full exercise of postmodern communism: freedom of expression for one minute in the eternity of the revolution.
On my way home I wondered if our photos are in all the museums like the photos of those wanted by the police or those missing. I’d love to know if in order to graduate from the Committee for Vigilance and Protection (CVP) course you have to be able to recognize all of us from photos and demonstrate that at any time or place, a Vigilance and Protection Committee law knows if you spoke into a microphone or not.
Saturday night I went walking all over Vedado which I enjoyed very much because even though it was hot the sun wasn’t beating down on me and I saw many young people in the street. The first thing that surprised me was this enormous sign at the stop at 23rd and A saying "Our five moral giants will return": As we were commenting on the delirious lettering that looks more like a name than an epithet, a boy we met recited this poem, between outbursts of laughter, telling me that they put it on TV a little while ago:
If in the two wars of fire and torch Freedom gave birth to radiant heroes In this battle of ideas Peace has given birth to five giants.
Naturally he didn’t remember the name of the author, completely unimportant.
Later I was able to confirm that all of 23rd was completely saturated with this type of sign, some of them absolutely hilarious. That was the opinion of everyone who, like me, was astonished by this new… strategy? …to reach the young people. Those who barely watch Cuban television, who hardly know that the newspaper Granma exists, who don’t care; they don’t forget that political propaganda is in full “neo-renaissance.”
At Mariana Grajales park at 23rd and C there there was a concert with Agonizer, a Cuban rock group. The park was full of people but I didn’t go to the concert because I wanted to continue my stroll. But I was very surprised when from 23rd I saw that the back of the stage they had installed was half covered by this sign saying, "To work hard":
Finally, on coming to G Street, an incongruous giant cloth, saying "This revolution is the daughter of culture and ideas," made us duck our heads to cross from one side of the boulevard to the other, always watched over by two cops, in case some too tall frikie might decide to remove the obstacle between him and his friends on the other side. But best of all is that, when I was complaining about the terrible bombardment of propaganda they subject us to, someone walked by and said to me:
- Better this way, so that we don’t forget that they don’t love us and we annoy them.
The other day I saw the movie “Crossing Over” which tried to encompass the subject of immigration in the United States. From my perspective of a “potential emigrant” citizen it seemed quite shocking, although it didn’t deal directly with the “Cuban” issue, and I was very touched. A strange coincidence of “positive” American characters and “negative” foreigners, although subtle, left a bad taste in my mouth.
Almost all of my friends now live in a some country in the world other than Cuba. I see around me that “leaving the country” is the “Cuban dream.” In no way am I standing in judgment on their decisions, I simply think that it is extremely sad that this island has become so unlivable for almost everyone.
My mother dreams that one day I will finally open my eyes and get on a plane for “someplace else,” my friends “fight for” scholarships and postgraduate positions where they might leave, a doctor curses over and over that she chose a career that is not assigned a “white card”; but as if that isn’t enough, high government officials and many people “committed” to the “process” long for the same destiny for their children and themselves.
To say goodbye to somebody at least three times a year is a part of my everyday life, sadly I can’t say the same for saying hello. Strangely, I know my friends don’t find what they’re looking for either, maybe it’s almost as hard to be an emigrant as to live under totalitarianism.
I ask myself when the day will come when we young people don’t have to scatter to the four winds to begin to plan a life from the darkness of emigration. I wonder when the Cuban government will assume responsibility for separating and dispersing us.
Talking about emigration is sad and complex and, like in the movie, to treat it lightly can be sad and hurtful to those living outside the country. Unfortunately, to emigrate is not an option: it’s an exit.
It is a little delirious to demand civilized behavior from a society that, with the help of the state, foments the creation of Rapid Response Brigades [to attack anyone who publicly protests or dissents]. Because of this, when I see the agitated state of people around me, I try to breathe deeply and tell myself, paraphrasing Ivan: They are not the enemy… nor am I.
We say this jokingly between us, and jokingly as well they told me this sad story the other day. I am one of those who maintains humor as a “maximum” remedy against what is, I have Faith in laughter to cleanse me of the bad feelings I get going out in the street, and to fight my daily grind.
The story is simple: it happened a few years ago when we still were enjoying the delirious interventions of the Comandante on the Roundtable TV show. But sometimes mysterious disappearances created conjectures among people (like now when he doesn’t update his blog for many days). During one such period, a friend of Julio (a professional dominoes player) died, a man named Fidel.
One of the players went to Julio’s house to give him the news, and as he lived on the third floor he shouted from the sidewalk:
- Julio! Did you know? Fidel died.
But the neighbor above Julio didn’t play dominoes and didn’t know “that” Fidel, so he thought it was the “other one.” He went straight to his room, grabbed his baseball bat, went to the house of the president of the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) and split his head open.
Unfortunately I’ve been able to confirm that almost no one else has this dread that I have. Hopefully when that day comes that we are all waiting for more or less anxiously, with more or less Faith, with more or less apprehension, it won’t occur to any player to split anyone in the head.
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.
Today I just finished Persepolis, by the Iranian writer Marjane Satrapi and I have seen reflected there a part of my life and my worries. Strange things unequivocally mark totalitarian regimes, beyond ideology, religion or culture, which have the same effects on their citizens.
Coincidently, the author talks about a novel, Oshin, that I saw in Cuba when I was still a girl. I remember my sister and I turned my room into a Japanese shrine, my father made us a few chopsticks to eat with and my mother soaked the rice to complete our tragic soap opera fantasies. But even more notable, it turns out, was to see that just as in Cuba Oshín didn’t work as a Geisha, in the Iranian version she was called a “hairdresser,” in the Cuban one she was a “stylist.” The work of a Geisha didn’t fit with Islamic morality, and on the other side of the world the communists considered it opposed to socialist morality.
When I was 20 I taught a Spanish language student from North Korea, at that time I didn’t have the slightest idea what happened to people in that part of the world. My student was hard working, spoke with an accent but with grammatical accuracy, and liked the classes. However, something strange about him repelled me, his ideas frightened me and his compositions left me with my mouth agape. Once when we were working on the imperfect subjunctive and the conditional, his sentences were more or less like this:
- If the general had called for the sacrifice of the army, the soldiers would have died happy.
He never wrote anything that wasn’t about war. I decided to suspend the class, he apologized and asked for some homework that he could study. He didn’t want to leave, he told me I was the only foreigner he was authorized to speak to in Cuba, the Spanish teacher. I told him I was very sorry and said goodbye.
The years passed and I learned that we and North Korea share the same destiny: to live in a dictatorship. I realized that sensation of freedom that I feel when I publish in my blog was the same one he felt when he talked with me and I mocked his sentences. I felt intolerant and lazy, I cut this poor man’s connection to the ground, his tunnel of information. I’ve never heard anything more about him.
It’s incredible that we share such similar feelings, though we are so different, and that our governments use absurdly parallel techniques. Marjane says that when you are only obsessed with correcting your dress, there’s no time to worry about your personal freedom nor the rights of others. How many times have I heard people tell the discouraged people in Cuba that they can’t talk politics because first we must put food on the table?
The other day at one of our blogger meetings we chose to talk about the stories of the Colón cemetery, of the vicissitudes that happen in Cuba when someone close dies. It seems to be a shocking enough topic, and in a certain sense it is, fortunately we’ve seen the movie, “The death of a bureaucrat,” which made it clear years ago that dying in Cuba “is not easy.”
A few days later a neighbor caught me by surprise with a horrifying story. It seemed that a 40-year-old woman in the neighborhood had died from epilepsy. The attending doctor found no external signs of violence, but in the interest of prudence called Legal Medicine to come and examine the body. Legal Medicine that it wasn’t necessary, despite the youth of the victim, if there were no signs of a crime they should proceed directly to preparing the death certificate without them.
For security reasons, the family asked that an autopsy be performed on the deceased and began to prepare the paperwork. As it was late at night, no hospital had much interest in receiving them, they heard several variants of refusal:
- There is no water. - There is no technician. - The person in charge can’t be located.
Finally they found a hospital that agreed to receive the deceased and the family quietly awaited the results, which take about two months. But three months passed and there was no response: it seems that the organs were lost and/or were thrown out at some point between the hospital and the processing site.
Deciding to make a complaint, they went to the province and tried to move heaven and earth, but they realize that they may never know what she died of.
The truth is that we did not want to go to Pedro Luis Ferrer’s concert. Ciro was rehearsing and I was dripping fat drops of sweat in front of the computer (literally) trying to decipher a code error in the HTML in the off-line version of the blogs. Outside, summer was pure fire.
Then I received Yoani’s call saying they wouldn’t let her enter the concert, with a mini repudiation meeting and all. I say mini because they are no longer able to call on thousands of people willing to shout “To the wall!” because cameras and microphones try to stand in for the apprehension that was previously supplied by hundreds of people wanting to make you grovel on the ground. What happened is that both Yoani and Reinaldo were good in front of the cameras. In my case it was a little while since I’d played cat and mouse with State Security.
Again, I pity the artists and intellectuals. They don’t even know that State Security has filled all the seats; they have no voice nor vote in their activities, they can’t even choose their guests nor interact with their public. After they didn’t let Yoani enter no one else could go in, the median age of those who heard Pedro’s concert this afternoon was 60, while behind the bars of the Museum of Decorative Arts railing we young people were looking at the illusion of empty seats and dreaming of applauding the themes and shouting the refrains. Sadly, the audience who came in chartered buses (we verified it later) didn’t have the least musical disposition.
But still I had a ball: I took photos of the security guys, saw solidarity among those who yesterday one would have seen repudiated, shared the afternoon with people my age and found out that State Security doesn’t like ballads. As we’d already left home and wanted to celebrate Macho’s birthday, we went to G Street. Ciro was playing the guitar until one in the morning (El Comandante and Alpido Alonso were, as always, among his most requested hits), I met a blogger and finally decided that we're not going to lose one of these holidays (anyway we have to earn them with our working wages, no?).
I’ve decided to subscribe to the newspaper Granma, every time I happen to see one I have the feeling that it raises the stakes. Today, for example, I discovered that the obituary was dedicated to Kim Il Sung under the ridiculous and disconcerting title of “Dear love of the people” with a small summary of his life that, when you read it, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Here in Havana they are showing two documentaries: “North Korea, access to terror” and “You love the leader above all things” which leave everyone dumbfounded. When you see them you can believe that Ramiro Valdés has emotions, that Randy has an iota of dignity, and that Fidel and Raúl are a couple of “little old men.”
After finding out that I was born on the same day Kim Il Sung left this world, I realized that he also shared his death with the first nine sites of the “People’s Camping Plan.” Any similarity to surrealism is pure reality.
There are days when I lose a little strength and I’m tired of the idea of going on and on along a path where nothing in the end looks very clear. It’s difficult to swim against the current, or against the currents, because at times in truth I feel I am going to be alone with two or three cats who inspire me when I’m tired. I think I would miss this blog like I’ve never missed anything before, and that finding a space of freedom has been the strangest thing that ever happened to me, in fact it’s not something that happened to me, it’s something that is. For that reason I find it hard to use adjectives like good or bad, because it’s difficult to describe the existence.
The other day I was walking around handing out CDs on G Street and a boy told me he had a blog and gave me the address for it with a warning: Don’t manipulate me. I laughed and told him I wouldn’t manipulate him, but I would put a link… then I changed my mind, in case he might feel manipulated if I put a link, who knows. Later heading over to 23rd I was thinking that I might have responded that I’m not Randy nor Taladrid to be manipulating anything, that he had the newspaper Granma for that and I, thanks be to God, was small enough that it would be almost laughable to thin =k I could manipulate anyone, especially in a country where information is a chimera and ideology is in its death throes and how can you support your weight on the crutch of opportunism.
I find that people without Faith make me shed my own, people who don’t understand, who swallowed paranoia as if it were an ice cream infinitely digested in the belly. Then I get sad and ask myself if it wouldn’t be better to return to my calm drawings, to throw myself only into my work and relax every day, if in any event someone tells me every 24 hours one of two things:
- You’re wasting your time. - This isn’t the way it’s done.
And I wonder: Are there any specific way to express themselves freely is more important than others? What better way than trying to be free? I really feel that I very happy with my blog, so simple, if not the ideal way is what I chose, if I'm wasting time, I found no greater pleasure than to waste time telling me what want. And I wonder: Are there specific ways to freely express yourself that are more important than others? What is the best way to try to be free? The truth is I feel most content with my blog, it’s that simple, if it’s not the ideal way it’s the way I choose; if I’m wasting my time, I haven’t found a greater pleasure than wasting time saying what I want.
But it’s been almost a year and I almost forgot the post with which I presented Octavo Cerco: for people without Faith who move to my side. Then I have no reason to doubt, I have always been against the current and I’ve never promised Faith, I’ve just wanted to share the little I have.
Back in Ciro’s neighborhood they are putting in some phones; there are 20 people on the list without phones but only three lines available. I find out, with growing sadness, all about the process from one of the concerned parties. ETECSA doesn’t decide who is going to get a telephone, rather it’s a commission appointed by the CDR that does a “study of the terrain” and names the chosen.
The initial three-person commission first named the president of the CDR, and second the delegate from the district, and in third place it was split between two neighbors close to the committee. The dispute continued until it became a scandal at ETECSA, who sent them home to come to agreement.
Other neighbors, seeing the problem, joined the dissent. The woman who told me the story, for example, explained that she was waiting to make her claim because she thought she had more merit in the CDR than those in the dispute. The matter was so raw that the commission was dismantled and a new one put in its place.
The new commission, together with the neighbors, have called an extraordinary meeting for a new selection, which still hasn’t taken place but it will take place without the presence of those involved in the problem. In any case, always when they selection is made and they make a decision, one can then make a claim for a new review of the whole process: a person argues why they don’t agree and lists the merits of the one whom they want to benefit beyond which they have benefited.
I remember when televisions were distributed people in Havana were shocked by the quarrels between neighbors; I know of friends who didn’t have a television and preferred not to get into it with their neighbors: dirty laundry, old stories, families in the United States, comments against the government, numbers of guard duty served, voluntary work, ideological quality of relatives… in the end, any argument is valid when it’s time to explain to the CDR that the television or telephone is deserved by you and not by the guy next door.
But worst of all is that there are people, like the woman I spoke of, to whom the process seems just. People who don’t see the sad and painful result of a system that makes it citizens behave like dogs getting a bone out of the trash, who sadistically wash their hands and indolently register with pride the responsibility of having converted envy and snitching into new values of the socialist revolution.
A friend told me that for the first time Cuba and the United States agree on one thing: The coup d’etat in Honduras is a threat to democracy. The only problem is that the step would place Honduras at some point in time near to Cuba in the past, because for some time we’ve renounced historical truth and the succession of events, over and above democracy; in my country no one remembers any more that yesterday, today and tomorrow are not synonymous.
So the ineffable Randy was doing his work on The Roundtable on Thursday. Trying within the dimensions of his possibilities to explain to us the reasons why the coup cannot be accepted or established, which is clear enough to all who believe that power imposed by the military almost always degenerates into sad dictatorships or corrupt and militarized governments (if one has lived the experience themselves they can harbor no doubt).
He considered it necessary, however, to spell out certain rights that a civil society must maintain above all if it is a State of laws and he said that now, in Honduras, these rights are being violated:
- The right to free association. - The right to a free press. - The right to demonstrate against the government.
He concluded the program with a key phrase: “No despot has the right to lead a hard-working people.”
It’s not a joke, Randy said that… I almost cried I was laughing so hard, to think he would have the nerve. I suppose it slipped his mind a little. I start to imagine that at the end of the broadcast he would receive a friendly “little call” from “above”:
“Randy, please. There are many ways to argue that the civilian government of Honduras has to be restored. Next time might you avoid giving unnecessary details?”
Then I found myself thinking maybe the idea isn’t so ridiculous, they called Pánfilo for much less.
The other day I went to Matanzas and visited Alejandrina, the wife of Diosdado González Marrero, a prisoner of conscience since the Black Spring of 2003. He was on a hunger strike alone in a cell in the Pinar del Río prison “Kilometer Five and a Half” (Cuban prisons never cease to amaze me with their horrible names, horrible like their conditions, of course). Alejandrina was telling me the ups and downs of going to Pinar del Río for visits, as traveling in Cuba is an odyssey.
I went on this same odyssey to be able to reach her home in Perico, a very complicated little town. I had to ask a lot of people, and I was very paranoid because I was afraid of being intercepted by State Security. However no one seemed to know the name of any street and I refused to say whom I was going to see… until finally I realized it wasn’t so serious, people greatly respected the families and helped them.
At the house you can see in the photo, right at the corner of Alejandrina’s house, I asked my last question and was answered, “I don’t know,” which seemed rude to me… maybe she spent a lot of time giving directions from here to there and was annoyed. The fact is that when I realized I was right next to my destination a wave of reproach hit me in the chest towards that woman who, obviously, had lied.
But I was wrong, that sad family had all the problems of mental retardation and lived in appalling conditions, divorced from reality and forgotten by the social welfare system. Last year the cyclone left them homeless and they haven’t even been able to finish the reconstruction thanks to being forgotten by the government, and in spite of help from the neighbors.
A woman in a doorway, with the roof half finished and the bare block walls, and a red rag on her back who doesn’t know the street where she lives, these are things “The Socialist Revolution” doesn’t take into account.
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.