On to Trinidad. We loaded up people, luggage and instruments in two large taxi vans and off we went to see a different Cuba. While loading up I noticed how the group separated. The mellow quieter ones in one van and the louder more rambunctious ones in the other. Lets take a wild guess which one I ended up in. I don’t even think it was planned separation. One of the benefits of getting older is self awareness. No words needed to be spoken, no feelings hurt we all just naturally formed groups of like temperament.
As the vans moved out of the city the view changed. From the city scape full of old buildings and grand houses to run down apartment complexes to shacks that looked barely inhabitable to big open fields of sugar cane. Anybody from my area of Louisiana will appreciate my momentary bout of aggravation. I fly all the way to Cuba just to sit in the back of car and stare at 1000’s of acres of sugar cane? At least this time my little brother wasn’t playing the “I’m not touching you game this time.” Most of the ride was relatively uneventful. A lot of visiting, playing an inappropriate game of Word Play and the consumption of Cheeze-Its as the cuban countryside whizzed by. As we neared Trinidad we hit a checkpoint. A fully armed officer checking everyone’s papers before they could move on. This was another part of Cuba that caused me some discomfort. They can’t even move freely in their own country. Our host informed us that all Cubans have to have their identification on them at all times. This I.D. informs the police which area they should be in. I couldn’t imagine what this must be like. If I wanted to drive to Mississippi I would have to get permission, hoping that it was even possible. Stuck in my part of Louisiana forever?! Don’t get me wrong I love my state but y’all it is hot as hell here and sometimes you want a break from the deep south and it’s many idiosyncrasies.
Our van pulled over and the driver got out. At first, I thought it was because of these new laws they passed which made it even harder for taxi drivers to freely move about. Fortunately or Unfortunately it was a problem with the vehicle. Unbeknownst to our driver one of the tire lug nuts had come off and he was close to losing the whole wheel. A new van was called and we all pile out onto the side of the checkpoint to wait. Just a bunch of Cajuns and musicians sitting on a curb in Cuba. We did have beer, instruments and a excess of Cajun wit. I knew it was all going to be fine when I got out of the not so new van, Robin proclaimed “Mais, look Jolie you got grocery store feet on the top.” * see notes
I have always believed that alot musicians are some of the most empathetic people that exist. I mean not the ones I dated but my pention for the cocky bad boy may have affected my ability to snag a good one. It may be weird but I see them as healers. Giving you joy, peace , relief or understanding during the times when you can’t find it yourself. Music brings people together and brings companionship to those that feel alone and lost. Our merry band of minstrels are no different. Their natural instinct kicked in and all of sudden the air was filled with sounds of singing and fiddle playing. As we sat their on the curb with lukewarm beer in our hands, enjoying our friends’ talents I noticed the guards. Their once stern expressions had softened. Louisiana may be the last state in the rankings but you can’t say we don’t rank high in making the best out of a shitty situation. Seriously, how can a state that is dead last in the race of which state is best also have a place that was voted happiest place to live? Louisiana and Cuba, two places everyone wants to visit and then wonder how we live here.
With the new van packed up we get back on the road. Driving into Trinidad was a sight I could see 1000 times and never tire of it. The only way I could think describe it. It is like you found a vintage postcard at your grandparents and as your staring at it, it becomes alive. The architecture and cobblestones streets make you feel like you time traveled. Donkey drawn carts and men riding horses down the streets. The colors, you won’t believe the colors. Everywhere you look is brightly colored buildings with the bright blue sky as their background. It caused an overwhelming need to jump out the van and see more. I had to make myself calm down and focus on finding our Casa. My first Casa in Trinidad was a simple house with a beautiful open air patio in the middle. I got the room with no windows but I got my own room so I picked my battle and decided this wasn’t one. With a town like that outside the door I knew I wouldn’t be spending much time indoors. The group settled in and we headed to go get a bite to eat and explore. That first night I fought my instinct to go out on my own for as long as I could but the urge was too strong. My plans to escape out were quickly stopped when I tried the door. Seems I had somehow locked myself in my own room. Sitting in the white box with no windows and no chance of escape without waking the whole casa I did the only thing I could do. I broke into my smuggled wine stash. Lets just say my private dance party ended some very unfortunate bathroom mirror pictures with my 1970’s tile wall as the background. After my 20th rendition of “All By Myself” as I laughed at my own very bad joke, I eventually passed out. The next day I was saved by the very sweet and elderly Mother who suffered from dementia. Seems like all Maw-Maws, she had a need to organize and fold my clothes while telling me how wrong I had done it. I don’t speak Spanish but you don’t need to, to understand Maw-Maw. That is a universal language only amplified by the disapproving head shake. Clothes now re-folded and put up and freed I was off to see what Trinidad had to offer.