A Little Music
McCaul focussed on the band and the music. The group was young: teens and twenties. The music was Afro Latin Jazz, with the Cuban beat: the clave; the root, the rhythm of all aspects of Cuban music - the instrumentation, the vocals, the dance steps. The players were spectacularly and enthusiastically immersed in this world.
One step onto Calle Obispo, and again it was obvious to McCaul that it's a very special place. Sloping gently downhill with more potholes than gravel or cobblestone, the 30 foot wide pedestrian-only mall was awash with people: late middle-aged couples looking for photo subjects, sidewalk fixers, sidewalk hustlers, cigar sellers, 80 year old paper boys, children playing tin can soccer. Music blaring, people dancing, sweating people leaning into holes-in-the-wall buying ice cream. People strolling down the byway licking their ice cream with rapturous expressions, laughing all the way, smoke trailing behind from cigars in their free hands. Middle aged Hemingway doppelgangers smoking fat cigars and speaking in English, Italian and German.
Buildings on either side that lifted spirits: many, many generations old; people leaning over balconies festooned with plants, yelling at compañeros across the street, and being laughed at back.
Many dogs, none of a consistent genealogical heritage, yapping, snarling, wrestling and jumping on anything that seemed the least bit edible. Old women, obviously weak from age and lack of food, quietly holding out their hands, looking for even a gram of charity.
Cars parked along each side street. The ubiquitous Havana jalopies, some in much better condition than others, like they had just rolled off the showroom floor after their buyer had seen a “see the USA in your Chevrolet” television ad. Some others lurching along, like every breath of exhaust might be their last. Cubanos in various stages of conducting mechanical work on their beloved cars, some leaning into engine compartments, others just visible as disembodied legs sticking out from underneath.