The Universe Is Calling You…From Cuba

The Universe Is Calling You…From Cuba

The universe is calling you…from Cuba. I have so many things to say about Cuba and it is hard to know where to begin on this 30-day recount of my trip, but I seem to find it is best to start right where you are and the story will take shape.

I began this 30-day journey back to Cuba through words all because I lost my phone in Cuba. I traced it back to leaving it in the last taxi we took on our last night.

Meet Cezar, a 24 year old, muy guapo y suave, tall and thin Cuban man, dark hair, buzzed on the sides with a long straight hair on the top, which seemed to be the current Cuban hairstyle. Cezar is the proud owner of a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, two-tone pink and white color with beautiful white prestine interior and suped up interior lighting. This white interior now covered with plastic, seemed to be untouched by time. Cezar’s car was in excellent shape and had obviously been cared for through the years, which allowed the driver to charge a little more because of the condition of the car. This now 62 year old car had a story and Cezar had a story and this is the night that we became part of their story.

The Potato Mafia: I was traveling through Cuba with 6 girls, my wife, my childhood friend Susan, Q and Jo, a lesbian couple together a little over a year, and the other Colleen Mary… a friend that I met 14 years ago through personal training, we realized our name connection and we became fast friends and giggle buddies, like friends sewn together back in Ireland through our ancestors, and we were reconnected on the US soil. More on the girls and the Potato Mafia later.

Out In Cuba: It is Sunday night, our last night in Cuba, and we had a very personalized dinner with the man who organized our tour through Habana, Charles of OutinCuba.co Charles had heard much about us as our guide Andres would brag about ‘how fun the girls were from New York.’ Charles, who was an American, who traveled back and forth to Cuba was currently traveling in Cuba and had no intentions of meeting his clients while he was on vacation, but after hearing about our fun group of girls, he made an exception. We dined at his B&B Casa Vieja, that had this amazing rooftop restaurant, that was literally reserved for guests and friends of the guests, so we basically had a private rooftop party in the middle of Old Habana Cuba with all of our new friends that we had met in Cuba. We walked right up to the chef in her open air kitchen, where she proceeded to ask us in Spanish if we would like fish, chicken, lobster, or shrimp? Each of us ordered our entre and we were in awe as the evening unfolded.

After hours of laughter, drinks, and incredible food at Casa Vieja we were ending our last night in Cuba. I was determined to suck every inch of life out of my last day in Cuba and I was not ready to return to our Air B&B home. I said, “I am going to Fabrica de Arte,” a place we were told by others not to miss and I just had to have one more night of adventure in Cuba. We said our good-byes as my wife and I headed out, by ourselves, for the first time in Cuba. We were put in a taxi by Andres and he told our driver where we were going and off we went to Fabrica de Arte. A good distance from Old Habana we took the road by the water and witnessed the waves crashing against the sea wall as the people walking along the wall would scatter. It was Sunday night and el mar was raging, yet the city did seem to be sleeping, the thousands of people we witnessed the night before while walking along the water had all vanished back into their homes in Habana. We were headed to where all the other tourists were headed, Fabrica de Arte.

Key To Good Communication: Cezar, turned and introduced himself at a light. “Do you like my car?” We responded with a resounding “yes” and asked if it is was handed down through his family and he said yes, it was his grandfather’s. He was brimming with pride and we could see why. We spoke short little sentences in broken English and broken Spanish as we traveled along the sea. When he arrived he asked how long we would be? It is customary for drivers to ask to pick you back up for the fare and we were now a bit removed from the heavy street traffic, where you could easily hail a taxi, so we were delighted to have him offer to pick us up. With my Span-glish I asked for him to pick us up at 1am and if we were 10 mins late to go without us.

Fabrica de Arte is literally a converted factory that celebrates art and culture. Think club meets museum meets live concert. We had a lovely time walking around and appreciating the art and seeing where the 20–30 somethings go in Habana. It was a mix of tourists and locals. We kept an eye on the time, because we did want to be sure to catch up with Cezar. We headed out to meet Cezar, we passed up several opportunities for other taxis, because we had made the commitment to meet Cezar. I looked at my phone 1:06am, not sure if I misunderstood or maybe we were waiting in the wrong spot, then Cezar pulled around the corner in his Chevy Bel Air. His car was full and I thought, “oh it is the Cuban way, we will have to share the ride home!” however, Cezar managed to find a fare who was looking to be dropped off at the Fabrica de Arte.

“Hola,” “hola,” they unloaded and we were off. That was the last moment I saw my phone, but did not realize until the next morning… (tune in tomorrow for the continued story of …the Universe is Calling You From Cuba, part 2)

Note: Please forgive the lack of accents on the Spanish words as I am learning how to add from my keyboard. Subscribe or tune in tomorrow. You can email me directly if you have any questions or for permissions at devlinmiles@gmail.com

Photos by SReid and SForte

Cuba Is Not For Everyone

Cuba Is Not For Everyone

If you are seeking a spa like, mani/pedi kind of vacation, Cuba is not for you. Havana is a working vacation, you walk every where and search for the good places to eat. We walked about 6–9 miles a day to see everything and walking was literally the best way to get to where we were going, especially in Old Habana. It is not a vacation of conveniences, you can not find a Starbucks wifi connection on every corner and from what I am told, if you go to Central Park to connect to the wifi spots there, the internet is still incredibly slow. It is not a 5-star vacation and 4-stars only if you have someone taking you every where. There are no Duane Reades or CVS pharmacies to pick stuff up.

Need for Adventure? Go to Cuba with an open mind, with a need for adventure, a desire to know more about this infamous land, that American starlettes, political figures, and mafiouso would go to hang and be in the tropical sun only 90 miles South of Miami until the Revolution ended in 1959, essentially freezing some aspects of Cuba in time, progress slowed to a hault and American companies and ties were severed. Investigate and understand what it means to live in a Socialist Society, to have your healthcare and education paid for by the government, yet leveling social classes and limiting personal growth. Go to meet the Cuban people and listen to their stories of the revolution from their perspective, incredibly smart, extremely hardworking, and quite prideful people. Don’t go with your opinions of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, listen to theirs, you will be surprised by their answers and learn from them directly about how the revolution effected them and their family. Understand that all societies at some point are susceptible to new leadership and all are vulnerable to civil unrest.

Made in America Personally witness the great craftmanship of American automobiles from the 1940–50s as 70 percent of the automobiles in Havana are classic American cars that are 60–90 years old and are still running. Experience the culture of few and far between, where you can not just pick up batteries or a real Coca-Cola on the corner, you have to know someone who knows someone or pray that a hotel might help you. See for yourself how incredibly resourceful the Cubanos have become through the years as they have kept these cars on the roads that were passed down generation to generation. Understand the pride they take in owning their homes and cars outright, no loans or mortgages.

CUC vs CUP See how the Cubans pay one price and the tourists pay another, see the direct impact you can have as one person traveling to a country where the average paid doctor is 40 CUC a month, that is approx $50 a month.

Shopping anyone? In Cuba, if you want to run a business, you must do so out of your home, so note that simple conveniences of water pressure, air conditioning, toilet paper, and ice cream are not the norm here, but a luxury. Don’t forget to bring your own bowl! Yes, seriously! You want to pick up a few things at the store or go shopping for clothes while in Cuba, you will be hard pressed to find anything like a mall.

What Are You Made Of? Go for the people, go prepared with snacks and tissues, travel with others, so if one of you didn’t pack something, another might have. See what you are made of, see if you can take the heat and not complain about it all day long. See if you can disconnect. See if you can be…be with yourself…be calm…be present in the moment of the past. Just BE! Go back in time with the insight of the future, how would you, a leader of a tech company, preserve the wonder of the past without ruining it for the future. Go with insight of what you think Cuba will be like now, in 10 years, in 20 years, and know that you will be forever changed. Bring with you insight and foresight to preserve the best of Cuba for the world to learn from the past! Cuba is a time machine for Americans to see how far we have come and to also relish in the joy that we have left behind in the hurry to improve.

Things to bring to Cuba: Lots of sunblock (buy packets on Amazon for easy packing), hats, sandals, comfortable shoes, toilet tissue (best in folding rather than rolls), and Purel wipes, face cleansers wipes (since it does get so hot), snacks, things easy to pack, water if you feel like lugging it, although bottled water is available, you can load your suitcase up at the airport, if you have to check your bags.

Hard to come by in Havana or very expensive and make great gifts for Cubans: Batteries, clothing, (consider bringing your donation of clothes to Cuba) sunblock, granola, oatmeal, granola bars, shoes.

*Note all the above are based on my personal experience and may not be true for everyone’s experience in Cuba, but if you like what you read and want to read more about how Cuba Changed My Life and my 30 day recount, please subscribe and share. Muchas Gracias!

Cuba Changed My Life!!!

Cuba Changed My Life!!!

It is hard to say when I felt the change, when the floor underneath my feet began moving, when I could no longer stand still, one thing is for sure it was Cuba.  Perhaps on the plane, knowing I only had a couple more hours of internet before we would be totally disconnected from the convenience of technology as we knew it?  Maybe it was arriving at the Cuban airport and being “picked up” by our guide at the airport, he was going to show us around Cuba, yet there was no car just him and we had to all hail a taxi, 7 of us?  Then there was the moment when we arrived at our Air B&B and we were reminded how technology has touched Cuba somehow? Or was it taking music classes in a foreign land and trying to navigate Havana streets alone? Or perhaps walking with a strange man throughout Habana?  Or it might have been getting away from it all and traveling with my wife and 4 other friends and experiencing this all together, aka the Potato Mafia, and all of us leaving our worries behind?  Or was it recording the whole trip on my phone from pictures to video to audio and being one of the only ones to record every moment and then leaving that phone in a taxi on my last night in Cuba?  One thing is for certain, it was Cuba!  Cuba changed my life!  And over the next 30 days, I intend to remain in touch with the feelings that shifted inside of me having traveled to Cuba.  Over the next 30 days, I will attempt to capture with words what only my pictures, video, and audio recordings could capture more eloquently.  I consider this the ultimate writing assignment to put into words the feeling, the character, the color, the life that I experienced while in Cuba.  It will be a journal of sorts, as to not forget the moments that I shared with strangers, who became friends, and friends who became family after a trip to Cuba.  I will start by saying this, Cuba is not for everyone!

Please join me and subscribe to the blog to encourage my journey through writing.  My muse Cuba!   I will post photos when possible, that someone from our trip might have taken or something to help the blog be identifiable.

For information about going to Cuba

http://www.cuba.com

September Blues – (The Camera Fades included)

Happy September –
September comes with a myriad of emotions.
Excitement for what is to come in the new school year, a new season at work returning from Summer, and all sorts of possibilities about how the year will end – promotions, raises, the election, so much happening this season.
The September Blues disappointment because Summer, fun, BBQing, and family outdoor/vacation/beach season is ending.
Re-commitment and Intent – “this time I am gonna end the year strong,”  “I am gonna focus,”  “get back to those goals I have abandoned and improve myself physically and mentally.”
Tomorrow is 9/11 and Sweet Little Bloodhound, all based in the NY area, all have our own stories as to what happened that day, one beautiful September day – Crisp air and bright blue skies, I walked out of the train to smoke and burning papers raining to the ground on Wall Street as I dodged my way to the office. This song marks my journey and I am releasing it to you to honor all of us and our memories of what happened before and what came after – more beautiful September Blues- this song is called
The Camera Fades

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In honor of Sept 11- Sweet Little Bloodhound will be playing a special show in Northampton, MA tomorrow from 4-7pm at The Deck – it is Free and it is outside and it will be a beautiful September day.
Thank you to all, who have come and supported us this Summer and who are reaching out and shouting out to us on social media. We are grateful for your time and your presence with us on this journey.
Love from the doghouse-
Devlin, Jibrail, Shanelle, Olivia, Tony, Buttahs, and Bishop
Here are the lyrics if you would just like to read them
When the towers fell
We learned for ourselves
That nothing comes for free
And there’s a price for liberty
The firemen, who rushed the gates
The police force, who keeps us safe
The child at home, who no longer waits
The people that we lost that day

What you did not see at home on your TV
And what you did not hear as the nation filled with fear
The sirens that never ceased
The emptiness that filled our streets
The landmarks we’ll never see
A city chopped off at the knees

The camera fades, but the souls remain
The wounds may heal, but we’re never the same
Our innocence was lost
We’re still totaling the costs
As soldiers sacrifice
I guess freedom has it’s price

Now the question is
Where were you when they hit
Be careful who you ask
There are wounds behind our masks
I was watchin’ from the Jersey shore
I viewed it from my subway car
I dodged debris from up above
I was trying to reach the ones I love

The camera fades, but the souls remain
the wounds may heal, but we’re never the same
Our innocence was lost
We’re still totaling the costs
As soldiers sacrifice
I guess freedom has its price

Bridge
What once was there has now disappeared
Where souls did roam now a tourists home
Buying lots of crap, like ground zero hats,
but I have to laugh cause NY is like that
Repeat chorus

SLB Summer Touring the Northeast 2016

SLB Summer Touring the Northeast 2016

We have had a blast in the Northeast this Summer, thank you to all the towns and communities that have opened their arms and homes up to us as Sweet Little Bloodhound has hit the road this Summer. Shout out to Lebanon, NH, Newburyport, MA, Greenfield, MA, Redding, CT, Maplewood, NJ, Northampton, MA, Florence, MA, New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY, Seabrook, NH, Salisbury, MA, and all those little road stops in between.  Although we don’t have pictures from every show, you know who you are and how much you rocked the house, no matter how big or small the show, you brought your spirit and we mixed it with a little SLB energy and we created a crazy cocktail of fun and mayhem.  You really helped us rock your communities and keep the smiles on our faces from roadblock to roadblock, you made it all worth it.  We look forward to seeing more of you in the near future as we are rounding out the end of Summer shows and planning our Fall Touring season.   Enjoy the pics and feel free to share them.

All Photo credits by Kim Nicholais of www.NicholaisPhotography.com