Opening Statement



Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Habana Diary: Club Rio [1997]

Habana 1997



Stepping out into the warm Habana night. A blast of hot air. The hellish heat. The pleading horns. A pounding, frantic salsa beat. The beat of life. Of Cuba and the night. Pouring out the beaten black doors of Club Rio. echoing down the dark quiet streets, off the dilapidated sun baked apartment ruins.

We slip the doorman a crumpled dirty ten dollar bill. American dollars. No pesos here. Not anymore. A giant hulking black man in his tired tux. He swings open the door.

Eee-yah! Eee-yah! Hands clapping to the beat. Mati tosses back a wisp of golden hair. A raging beauty. A Cubana Marilyn Monroe. Or is it Madonna tonight? Crazy spandex pop dreams. Bare midriff. Mesh top. Dun beat.

Flicks her lipstick stained cigarette to the floor, crushes it with stiletto heel. Grabs my hand. Flashes a girlish smile. Everything lost, all the impossible problems y cares to the swirling salsa beat.

A hopeless puff of air conditioned relief. Lost among the sweaty clammy bodies. Thick smoke. Wild flashing lights. Tugging my hand, we collapse on a worn couch. the cheap vinyl sticking to our skin. In a dark corner. Among the lovers. Fingers entwined. Bodies pressed tight together. Wet stolen kisses. Crazy laughter.

We survey the room. The grimy dated sixties decor. A peeling mural. Typically Cuban; of chicas with big butts. swinging round and round with chicos in tight bulging pants. Eyes wander along the cracked winding bar. More bodies pressed tightly together. Heaving. Swaying. Reaching for a drink.

The bar man pours rum shots. Passes out long necked cervezas gulped back in the heat of the moment. Resting in puddles of water. Ashtrays heaped high. The locals wear their best. Yesterday's hip fashions. Lost in the backwash of Cuba. Of time. The amiga's giggle. Whisper. Throw back their hair. The chicos lean back precariously on their wooden stools. One arm propped up on the bar.


It's a Cuban carnival of life! An old man wanders in looking for a light. Tobacco powder falling out the end of his dried out cigarette. "El Popular". Cigarillo negril. As good as it gets. He sways to the beat. Bumps hips with a girl. Everyone laughs. Somebody passes him a shot. He knocks it back. Licks his lips. Wanders back off into Cuba and the night.

Two police stroll in. Hike up their gun belts. Tip back their caps. Coolly checking out the crowd. Belly up to the bar, they soon are distracted with a drink. The music's cranked up. Trance like. Matching. Surpassing the blasting, pounding, mind numbing beat. Disco. Rap. Latino. Overdrive. Nothing makes any sense. Why should it?

Along the dance floor the jinetera sit. Legs spread. Tits all but spilling out of their skin tight minis. College boys on vacation in loud over sized Hawaiian shirts lean over, cop a feel. Choose a chica for the night. Laughter. Winks. Ven aca, mi amor? Que tal?

The chicas tug their latest hombre out onto the heavy swaying dance floor. Let the guys take them for a spin. The floor's packed tighter and tighter. Impossibly so. With a heavy sigh the music and bodies pump up the salsa beat. More frantic now as the clock above the bar hits three and we move into the homestretch.

The chicas jump up from their couches. Chairs. Mati too. Pelvis' gyrating from somewhere deep inside the pit of their tummy. Gut. Tinny horns blast among the bass beat roar. Mini's sliding up slender legs. Tight asses. Svelte hips. Hands on tummy. Tongues breathlessly between the lips. Bodies sway back and forth. Round and round. To and fro. It's a Cuban ritual: the beat of life. Of Habana, Club Rio and the salsa night.

And then: more disco. Rap. Tired oldies back home. But here? It's new? It's wild! It's international! Forbidden fruit from the world beyond. An impossible dance dream melting into romantic ballads. Lush overtly sentimental strings. Chicas swoon as the chicos hit back the last of their drinks.

Mati grabs my hand. Pulls me out onto the dance floor. Our moist drenched bodies, sweat upon sweat. The swell of her breasts. Hot breathe. Her cheek to mine, I close my eyes. Everything but everything just disappears. The music takes over. We sway in a crazy, timeless embrace.

The lights flicker on. Rubbing our eyes, we spill back out onto the still, silent streets before dawn. Laughing. Strolling hand in hand along the Malecon. The sea wall. The sheer madness of it all. The joy of life. Con mi mujar en Habana y la noche.


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