As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on my Axis of Evil tour, trying to set down the bottle of rum and cigars long enough to pick up a camera and do a little work. One of life’s cruel rules is that you actually have to take photos in order to take good photos. Truth be told, I was only marginally successful at doing either.
This photo was taken in Havana where time seems to be slowly creeping through the mid-20th century. Departing the plane, it’s as if you start working your way backwards through time, stepping into one era and then another, receding further by decades until you reach parts of the country that, with animal-powered carts and plows, feel like they haven’t moved much at all in the past 150 years.
Making your way through immigration in some Catch-22-esque Cold War era comedy routine, you get to play a game in Spanish called Sixty Questions for the Gringo. If you’re lucky, you get to play this two-hour game with at least three interrogators, who, failing to communicate with one another, ask you the exact same questions again and again. Your three favorite questions may be:
1.”Why don’t you have a Cuban visa to enter the country?” (Answer: “Because ‘The United States of America’ is printed on the cover of my passport.”)
2. “Do you intend to look for work during your visit?” (Quintessential American answer: “I don’t know, what’s the pay like and does it include ‘Dental’?” Wink wink. This is hilarious to you because almost no one in your country receives dental coverage anymore, but not so funny in a country where everyone has state-sponsored dental care.)
3. “Will you list your previous employer in Japan and the name of your supervisor?” (Answer: Nonsensical symbols and “Ito Doesento Matteru”.)
Leaving the airport, the atmosphere changes into the laid-back, what’s-the-hurry vibe you’ve come to expect south of the border of your home country. Walking the cobblestone streets of Old Havana, you’re surrounded by architecture from the 17th-19th centuries as classic American cars from the 1950’s and Soviet era Ladas cruise the streets past ubiquitous communist-style murals and billboards. This is nothing out of the ordinary, it’s daily life. It’s no wonder that half the pictures of Cuba I’ve seen center around this motif – old cars, buildings, and the revolution – because it’s everywhere and it’s delightful. I’m pretty certain 75% of the photos I took rely on some combination of this. Look, here’s an old building! And here’s an old car! And here’s one of an old building and an old car! Ooh, and here’s a picture of a person with a cigar! Pretty lame, I know. Fortunately (or unfortunately in this case), Cuba’s one of those places where it’s too easy to kick back and forget that you could be working. It’s much more satisfying to sit down and watch time come to a halt.