Category: Cuba, 2014

Almost There

January 28.

Attended a very good morning lecture in Sarasota called, “The Reform that Wasn’t” about Wall Street, given by William Cohan, who has written three books on the excesses of the investment banking world. This was part of a series of lectures, most of which are on foreign policy issues, that I am signed up for on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The lectures draw approximately 400 people. One of the things I really like about Sarasota is that it is very far from being an intellectual or cultural wasteland. Cohan does not have an uplifting message. Afterwards, I drove down to Miami, approximately four hours, and met Carol, who was flying in from Chicago, at the hotel. We had an earlyish dinner at our airport hotel with our good friends from college, Phil and Leslie Paul, who live in Miami.

At 8 PM, we attended the mandatory meeting of our group in the hotel. The trip we are going on is being run by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, the same outfit that I traveled to Cuba with last year. The workshop is running a whole slew of trips to Cuba this winter and spring. The maximum number of participants is fourteen, but, happily, there are only nine in our group. The meeting included another group that is going at the same time. I’m hoping that there will be very few joint gatherings of the two groups, because that would make the group too large.

Our trip is being led by a professional photographer named Tony Bonanno. The reason we chose this trip was in part because of the subject matter – art and music in Cuba – and in part because the photographer with whom I had traveled to China and Cuba, Nevada Weir, recommended Tony when I asked her who would be a good person to travel with. In order for US citizens to travel legally to Cuba, they must get prior permission and travel in a group for some cultural purpose. Cuba is becoming an increasingly hot destination, so many different groups are running trips down there on pretty-much any topic you can imagine. When I checked into the hotel, there was a sign on the front desk telling participants in the Shalom Cuba trip where to meet.

Usually, I have good intentions of preparing for a trip, but most of the time fall (way) short of what I had hoped to do. This time, I thought I had really hit a new low, by not preparing at all, but I was wrong; it turns out that I did prepare. When I came down to Longboat in December, I decided to take Ken Burns’ series on Jazz with me. If you have not seen that series, get it, and watch. You are in for a real treat. You will need some time to do it, though. The series consists of ten DVDs, each of which runs approximately two hours. But the effort is well worth it. As he has proved again and again, Burns is a genius, and Jazz measures up to his best. Watching the series gave me a completely new appreciation for what’s involved in jazz, its history, it’s variety and the way it incorporates so many other musical forms. The series also is a rather sobering American history lesson. Whether directly or indirectly, I’m sure that having watched Jazz will enhance my enjoyment of the music we hear on this trip (and after). So, you see, with this blog you get more than just travel, whether you want that or not.

For those of you who may be miffed at having been subjected to several posts before I even hit Cuba, I have an explanation. For me, these pre-trip posts are a warm-up, almost part of the trip, in much the same way that I regard taking the El to be part of the Wrigley Field experience, or taking a boat ride out to the dive site to be part of the scuba diving experience. I guess I’d say that anticipation of the experience is part of the experience itself.

Tomorrow, though, we really are going to hit Cuba. I promise.

4 comments to Almost There

  • Margo

    Cuba is on my bucket list, Arnie. For now, I’ll live vicariously through your blogs. Enjoy! Enjoy!

  • Wendy

    Cool, Dadz. The Jazz series. I don’t know if I have 20 hours of Jazz and its history in me but, then again, I’m not going to Cuba. Maybe, with your new-found appreciation to add to our enjoyment, we could watch 2 hours of Jazz and its history every time we hit Chicago for the next decade. Really– I think that’d be a fun way to do it. We’ll stay tuned on all things cultural in Cuba.

  • Wendy

    P.S. How’s Gee-Gee feeling?

  • Barbara Reynolds

    Presume that the history of jazz parallels in part the history of blacks in America. The acceptable face of the Stan Kentons and Benny Good man’s did spread the message mainstream. Think especially Nina Simone.

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