Monday, April 19, 2010

Walk 3 Miles in My Shoes

9 a.m. on a sunny spring day, I enter Central Park at 110th Street.

Once past the Harlem Meer pictured above, I round the conservatory gardens and prepare for my version of Heartbreak Hill.

I always step off the paved road halfway up and finish the incline by puffing up this little pathway, just because it's nicer to feel the dirt under your feet.

On this particular day I was greeted by this unusual sight! Not a normal vehicle to see in busy Manhattan. This one was moving through the park, so I guess it was assigned to important Central Park business.

Next up are the blooming cherry trees around the reservoir. Prepare to be pinked!

Eventually, many steps later, I get to 59th St, Columbus Circle. This is where tons of pedicab drivers hang out in the morning, preparing for a busy day of hassling and haggling with tourists. These guys are sharks to do business with, but they do line their bicycles up nicely to avoid hogging the path.

Impromptu jazz performance right behind one of the big Columbus Circle statues. I think this one is for Jose Marti, or for the victims of "The Maine," the US ship that mysteriously blew up in a Cuban harbor 'lo those many many years ago.

Columbus Circle! Looks weird in this picture, doesn't it? That's the Time Warner building, and CNN's home, and there's a Whole Foods in there too that I sometimes shop at.

I think this guy was supposed to be pulling the tractor I saw earlier in the park! He and I are both about 10 blocks away from work yet. He's headed east on Central Park South to get to The Plaza, where horse carriages gather. I'm still headed south, about 10 minutes away from my final destination: My desk.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Hi Everyone!

If you are reading this, you probably followed the link from my regular blog, On the Way to Onederland. Thanks for coming on over!

Below are some pictures and some information about my recent trip to Cuba. We went to deliver much-needed supplies to the Cuban people.

What did I bring? All sorts of everyday supplies that you and I probably buy without a second thought: aspirin, band-aids, cold medicines, soap, soap and more soap, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, and so and so on.

These were humbly and gratefully received by the people, who often stop foreign visitors on the street to ask if they have any "left over" shampoo/soap, etc that they can give them.

We didn't know this going down, but because the Cuban government has shipped all its existing supply of medicines to Haiti, the Cuban people right now have even less access to things like aspirin and medicine.

It's a terrible situation for them, an outgrowth of our existing embargo and the policies of the Cuban government.

That said, Havana is poor, crumbling and so so beautiful. The people don't have access to cement, wood, nails, whatever you need to maintain buildings, so they live amidst old Spanish Colonial splendor that is falling down and decaying around their ears.

Food is awful -- mostly cheap, processed junk that the Cuban government buys in bulk once a month at the free trade zone in Panama. They might go and buy 10,000 packs of minute rice, for example, and 5,000 toothbrushes. They buy what's available and what they can afford.

It's stocked in Cuban stores, and on the day they are open, the lines are hugely long. People know that no more goods are coming for the month, so they buy as much as they can. When it runs out, it runs out. If you aren't early enough in the line, you just go without for the month.

Here are some of my favorite pics: I'll try not to over do it, but really, the place is so unique it's hard not to snap pictures of just about everything!

A typical old building. About four or five families will likely live in this. Yes, that's a typical window/door situation. Actually, that's good. Walk along at night and you can see right into people's houses. Most windows don't have panes or coverings at all.

This youngster was sweet and affable and didn't object to my picture taking. I think the building he lives in is condemned, but I assume this is his only choice right now.
This is the neighbor of the family that hosted us. I saw her through the window one morning. She filled her other bucket with water from a cistern before going back inside. This was on her roof.
Typical streetscape.
El Malecon -- the legendary long seaside walk in Havana.
She's giving me the stink eye because she is dressed this way to make money. Tourists are supposed to pay these women money if they snap their picture. I didn't know that until after I took it.
Cuba's most famous export.
Another tourist set up. Looks great, then you realize you're supposed to pay if you take pictures of this "impromptu" street performance.

Cigars, anyone? We didn't go in for the tour, although I think it would have been interesting. But it was closed on the only day we had an afternoon free.

I have tons, tons more. Let me know if you want to see more and I'll post.

Thanks for looking!