June 13, 2010

Havana, Cuba
Elevation: Sea Level
Humidity: Please HELP!
The creative process and traveling have much in common. There are highs and lows, there are days when teh ideas come and progress are made, intermingle w days when are you simply stuck somewhere (physically or metaphorically) and can’t wait for the next bus out fo town. Combining traveling with a very specific creative endeavor has beena challenge these past 10 days. Digging into a city has been much harder than one would imagine, especially when one can only speak survival Spanish.
The past two days has been furstrating in terms of collaboration with my friend. Nothing is quiet coming through and all the ideas that have been generated these last few days are only the seeds of something, not enough to make interesting work out of. So we spend a few days staring at one another. killing time, waiting for soemthing to happen.
Much like traveling, just when you think you had enough of this town, of the bus ride, of the heat, one element changes adn then everything changs. We get a call late Friday and the models that we need for a shoot is available and we can have them tomorrow afternoon. Oh thank god! Let me kiss that baby jesus!!!
We photograph these actors in some very iconic locations around Havana. I am working on a story that comments on the overall vibe of this country through the pov of a pair of lovers. My friend is doing something about saying goodbye. The Malecon is one of our locations. I am done with my portion so I wait for my friend to shoot his.
An older man with a guitar comes up to me. He is accompanied by another with a pair of shakers. The older guy, Fidel, starts to ask me the usual questions, where I am from, etc, etc. He asks me if I like Bruce Lee. Then he ask me to sing with him. I decline at first, no, I am really not very good….He insists. The next thing you know, Fidel is picking out Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” on the guitar.
Once upon a time, I was in love with a beautiful Brit and this was our song. I sing the bits of the lyrics that I recall with my friend Fidel. Except, he doesn’t know all the lyrics either, we are a little all over the place but we certainly are trying our best. Fidel adds a little dance step into our routine and so now I am trying to dance with an elder Cuban man while singing “Is This Love” on the Malecon. He doesn’t remember the line “and jaa provide the bread” which comes before the chorus so he skips ahead and heads into the chours of “is this love….” Just right before the last line of the chorus, he turns to the teenage girls sitting to my left and “MEOW” at them. OMG! What is going on here and why do I love it so much?! The fact that this song brings back fond memories of the beautiful Brit is one thing, but in this moment, I love love love the fact that I am singing badly with a complete stranger in a strange land.
We wrap up our song. Our little act has been recorded by a few on their cell phone and what not. Fidel writes down his name and info for me and we kiss each other goodbye. I am a few steps away, he calls me back. He takes out his wallet and dig out a tiny photo of himself. “Just for you my love!” I gave him another kiss on the cheek and run to catch up with my friend who is way too cool for shcool to understand why this moment is precious for me adn that I will always remember it fondly.
Magic hapnes when you let go of pretense, expectation and fear. Both in art and travel, my best moments come when I say YES to all the seemingly random invitations and chances to do something I’ve never done before.
*Fidel and his friend are playing for tips. However, my exchange with him did not involve any money at all. He didn’t even ask me for anything. Instead, he gave me something.

Charlie Grosso
+1 310-592-0895

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