True stories with a twist!

Posts tagged ‘music’

Havana Cuba, March 2016

Here we are in a 1951 Pontiac convertible in Havana, Cuba. Our trip there was educational, interesting and sad all at once. Tourists may visit Cuba only in groups: not on their own. The people are sweet and friendly. But they are poor and live in tiny houses, often three generations living together. Here are some of the facts I learned:

The Cuban government owns everything. The people are employees of the government, which sets the pay scale for every category of jobs.

Everyone receives free medical care, free education and food rations which cover three weeks of food. Anything else, including food for the remaining week of the month, must be provided by the family members in whatever way they can manage.

There is no advertising in Cuba. If someone is looking for a job he must either listen to word of mouth or go in person from one place to another in search of work.

Much of their needs are provided by relatives who live in the United States. Often, parts needed for mechanical tools are made and improvised by the workers.

Music is everywhere: in restaurants, street corners and parks.

I was surprised by the number of “classic cars” all over the city. I thought only a few were preserved for display, but in actuality those old cars are the every day transportation for many people. New cars are not seen. Public busses are used by most Cubans. Hitch hiking is safe and is encouraged. If a person driving a car passes a pedestrian requesting a ride, he is encouraged to stop and give him a ride. If a government official passes a pedestrian on a highway he must stop and pick him up.

There are two currencies: the peso for the working people and the CUCs for tourists and wealthy Cubans.

Educationally, it is against the law to drop out of school; it is mandatory to attend school through high school. Text books are provided, but must be returned at the end of the semester. No private schools exist in Cuba. Three exams are taken to qualify for admission to college: Math, History and Spanish. Eighty percent of the population attends college.

After graduation there is a two year mandatory military service required. Afterwards each student is assigned to Social Service: three years for girls and two for boys.

Abortion is legal! Pregnant women work seven months before maternity leave begins, and returns to work in one year. In all this time she is given her full salary.

As we drove through the countryside I was astonished and saddened at seeing the terrible nutrition of the animals. Horses were tethered to wooden stakes in the ground tied to five or six feet of rope. The paltry grass in that small circumference was their meal each day. They were so thin that their ribs poked out of their bellies. Dogs were malnourished as well. I did not see any cats. Oxen are still used to plow fields, pulling hand plows with farmers steering behind.

We attempted to engage the tour guide in a conversation about the missile crisis of the 1960s. She insisted Cuba had only defensive missiles, and when we challenged her, she snapped back with “Well, we all have our own opinions!” End of discussion.

Everyone we spoke to expressed hope that the embargo will be lifted soon.

…and so the drama continues.

 

Ronnie and Harvey in a 1951 Pontiac, Havana Cuba

THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS

I love Morristown the week before Christmas.

The town Green is colorfully decorated, the sounds of sweet seasonal music echo from shops and restaurants, and the energy of hurrying, mission motivated people is everywhere.

On Christmas Eve fire trucks make neighborhood rounds with sirens blaring. Santa is stationed on top, ho ho hoeing while tossing colorfully wrapped holiday candy to on looking children.

But what I really love is the welcoming white puffy bags tied around each meter saying “Seasons Greetings. Free Parking. Two Hour Limit”. Saving a quarter never feels as good as the gift of free parking in a busy town.

The week before Christmas, as I drive down Speedwell Avenue expecting to go around the corner to the public parking lot I couldn’t believe my eyes or my good fortune. In front of Century 21, right before me, was a car pulling out of a spectacular parking space. It pulled out of the spot, I pulled in, and joyfully jogged into the store. Knowing exactly what I needed, I chose my merchandise and just a few little extra treats, and exited toward my perfect parking spot.

But as I approached it I saw a truck the size of a supine Empire State Building, double parked alongside my car. I signaled the man in the truck’s passenger seat that he was blocking my car and I wanted to leave.

He made the signal for “He’ll be back in a few seconds”: the thumb and index finger indicating a small amount of time. Evidently the man in the passenger seat couldn’t speak English and couldn’t drive the truck.

Squeezing between the truck and my car, I opened the door and sat inside awaiting the promiseded instantaneous return of the driver. While waiting I checked home messages on my cell phone, crossed items off my “to do” list, and then, and then … hey: where is this driver???? It’s been 20 minutes of confinement in my perfect parking space prison.

That was when I called the Morristown Police. The officer took the information about my incompliant incarceration and dispatched a patrol car. It couldn’t have been more than sixteen seconds after my call that I saw flashing lights and black shiny boots walking toward the truck. He spoke to the man in the passenger side and than walked to my car, which was immobilized behind the behemoth vehicle.

“How long have you been stuck here?” he asked. I told him. He said, “I’m going to give him a ticket and call a towing service to get him off the street.” He walked back to the truck, climbed in, and drove several lengths forward, enabling me to move my car back onto the street.

I was free again! Free to move around, free to drive.

Suddenly I know the exhilarating feeling the early settlers had when they saw the flag waving, bugle blowing cavalry riding across the plains to their rescue!

Thank you, Morristown Police Department for freeing me.

And to all, have a beautiful, healthy, and fun-filled 2012.

 

On the anniversary of one year WordPress I resubmit my first blog.

 

 

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