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Monday, May 6, 2002

Sometime during the night, in addition to my cold, my right eye started to hurt. OK, a head cold and an eye infection. No problem. I can handle this. When I woke up, I was leaking not only from my nose (think of a river in springtime, rising to the flood banks), but my eye was pouring out a stream of tears. My daily ration of one small roll of toilet paper was soon depleted. I had broken my cardinal third world travel rule of always tossing a roll or two of toilet paper into the suitcase.

I headed up to the Habana Libre and saw the hotel doctor. She diagnosed the eye as a scratch on the cornea, not an infection, and the tearing was aggravating the nose dripping. She put some ointment and antibiotics in my eye and some drops to dilate the pupil. She started assembling a small device that looked exactly like those little blowtorches that chefs use to caramelize creme brulé. For a minute I though she was going to cauterize my eye or something, but it was a small light so she could examine it better.

She put a bandage over the eye and told me to leave it there until the morning. Wonderful. Now I can wander about Habana with snot streaming out of my nose and a garish white bandage plastered across my face. ¡Que guapo! I had been joking with my friends that the Cuban girls were so pretty that they were breaking my eyes. Now I had proof.

I had planned to go over to Bellita's house for a visit, but I needed rest. I called her and she advised me to drink lots of fluids and take some lime. Later, I told her that this advice made me feel much better. That night at La Zorra I took some lime, some sugar, some mint leaves, a little rum, some soda water: ah, a mojito! Good drink for a cold.

I wandered around Vedado for a bit, but I really had no energy, so I spent most of the day either resting or practicing. There were no Timba shows this night. Unfortunately, the Tropical has discontinued its Monday night series that was happening the last time I was here.

I had a lesson scheduled with Pupy, or at least, I thought I did. I had spoken with him on the phone the day before, and he said to come down to the Egrem studio at four o'clock Monday afternoon. My Cuban-style Spanish is bad, but it's especially bad over the phone, where I am deprived of the gestures, facial expressions and miming that helps tranlate for me. I arrived at the studio around five, to find that the session was over, and everyone had gone. Pupy had told me that the session would be over at four and that's when he could give me a lesson, but I had thought he was telling me that the session started at four. Arrggh. No lesson with Pupy today. The guy at the studio told me that Pupy would be mixing in the morning, so I planned on heading back then.

That night I went back to La Zorra Y El Cuervo and sat in with Peruchín Jr and his group again. Big fun. The drummer, Santiago and I connected really well. It was so much fun to play with him.

Elena, one of the cocktail waitress who has worked there for five years took me around the room and showed me the pictures of famous musicians who have played there and told me stories about memorable nights, such as when Wynton Marsalis came by. Jimmy Branly was on drums that night, and there is also an 8 x 10 of Jimmy hanging in the club. The Capitán told me that when Jimmy came back for a visit last winter, he was down at La Zorra about twenty times. They all love the guy there. ¿Y como no?

I faded before the night was over and headed home early. A little rest and I would be cool in the morning to resume the frenetic pace of trying to cram everything into two short weeks.

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