Monday, July 23, 2007

Letter to M. Gibson Hartwell

Dear Gibson,

It was good seeing you way back when you came through town. Your band rocked and I hope your Missoula success spreads quickly throughout the country. Soon, instead of "I have a friend who once played with Colin Meloy of the Decemberists", I hope to be able to say, "my friend Gibson from Tom Catmull and the Bishops". Or is it Tim Catmull and the Clerics? Something like that.

Pardon me for using you as my second entry in an experiment of writing letters to friends as blog entries from Cuba, but I don't have an email and frankly what I share with you, want to share with everybody. As the blog says, I'm in Cuba and it's going spiffy. The music here saturates the
air (along with poorly combusted fuel and cigar smoke. Speaking of which, while I'm limiting myself to a two-a-day cigar habit (and even then not enhaling), I had my first experience of this trip of Exhaust OD. I was walking with my friend Mario and his daughter Cheche to her mother's house, when we came to the intersection of 100 and 51 in Marinao (which may be the equivalent of the intersection of 125th and Lake City in Seattle, but has no equivalent in Montana). Wait, I take that back, it's kinda like Malfunction Junction in Missoula, as it's the crossing of three major arteries, though better planned. However, all the cars, or trucks actually, old Soviet things and imported buses from Holland and gerry-rigged Chinese contraptions and everything robbed of their carborator, it was all abit overwhelming. I had one of those moments when I wanted to sneak into a hospital and borrow a geriatric's oxygen mask.

The junction is the same place where I've made one of my few discoveries of change since my last visit two and a half years ago: a state-owned restaurant. Then, the staff was surly and pissed to be interrupted from their meal. "What do you want?!" they growl, and when Mario answered, "Food", the look on their faces said, "why on earth should we give you food=E2=80=9D. They said all they had was chicken and beans, though they were eating friend platanos themselves (
bananas) and downing it with beer. They reluctantly took our order and it arrived twenty minutes later. Though we were the only customers in the place, i counted 10 staff.

NOW, must to my amazement, the waiters are friendly, greet you upon entering, and wear black ties. Options are printed on menus and the drink selection is on display (wines both red and white, as well as Cuban beer, though a placard kindly asks you to refrain from drinking rum out of bottles on the premises). I was shocked -surly staff who loathe -wait, are idiologically opposed to the concept of "serving" were trademarks not only of Cuba, but every other soviet state I'd been to (Russia, Poland, East Germany; the Chinese weren't much better, but the Vietnamese, Cambodians and Lao, for some reason, had it right). Perhaps this is a watershed change, perhaps just a signal phenomena, I won't be here long enough to find out.

And that, my old friend Gibson, concludes my letter to you. I hope sometime, eventually, you find it on my blog and enjoy it, and i haven't revealed any embarrassing truths about you like I did to my cousin.

Send my regards to the little lady and growing boy, and I hope to be out there sometime in August.

Your Friend,


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