I have only fainted once in my life: I was walking along 23rd Avenue and saw a car run over a dog. The driver and his passenger got out, grabbed the animal by the legs and tossed him, dying, in a garbage can three feet from me. The last image I saw before falling: the agitated dog, bleeding among the trash, while my ears caught the squeak if the tires of the Moscovitch car pulling away at top speed. When I woke up I was in my bed: my friend who was with me had managed to get me in a taxi and bring me home safe and sound, although I didn’t wake up, even at door of my house.
Perhaps that moment has marked my obsession with stray dogs: they touch my soul, I feel helpless not to be able to take them all, I shudder when I see them crossing the street. The other day a friend of mine – totally pessimistic with regards to the future of this country – was teasing me about my fears for the animals; but people carry such a burden of indolence and dogs have been the direct victims of the phenomenon of national apathy: mangy, injured, super thin and grimy, they are a part of the daily landscape of my city, like the trees and birds.
Their terrible situation is only surpassed by their compatriots in the animal world, the residents of the zoo: they are also skinny, dirty and half sick, living in tiny cages for their size (the low roof over the hawks and eagles is truly disheartening), and sometimes they are all alone, giving the impression that their only purpose is to educate us in the fundamentals of animal abuse.
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.