I’ve always joked, THIS will be my album cover when I become a salsero or legendary Cuban son musician. This is that sort of shot that doesn’t get set up, wasn’t lying there waiting for me, and had just one opportunity. This was with my manual Pentax K-1000 (with film) in the streets of Old Havana (now La Habana in Spanish). I stayed at Hostal Neptuno, really the home of Ruben Rodriguez who rents out a couple of bedrooms. There were three of us and the room had tall shuttered windows that overlooked the street. Music was everywhere we went. From the corner cafes a bit of son would emanate, picking up reverb from scuffed parquet floors and high ceilings, giving that quality I’d now associate with the Ry Cooder-produced rediscovery of the Buena Vista Social Club. And sure enough, poke your head inside and three or four old timers were set up in a corner filling the room with music. I didn’t go to a lot of tourist restaurants, so my food experience was a bit disappointing. I ate a lot of ham sandwiches on that trip. I’d stand in line with locals and always, somewhere, music was on. Either the guys in the corner or an actual “boom box” (am I dating myself with that term??). And everyone in line had their hips rolling a bit, unconsciously it seemed. My time in Havana didn’t do much to break that stereotype at least.
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