One semester a student mentioned one of her co-workers said to tell me hello. It was a student from a previous semester who I knew as soon as I heard her name. The student offered, "she said she was in your class the semester you got new jeans."

A little bit of me died.

I don't want to become that professor that wears the same jeans for years, that wears the same shirts or shoes either. I don't want to be that professor that routinely takes the elevator from the first floor to the second (and, worse, down from the second floor) because they're too tired.  I know that doesn't have much to do with jeans, but I had to throw that out there to the universe.

Anyway, I knew exactly what semster she was talking about. I had one pair of Lucky jeans that I loved and wore to death, so much so that they ripped in lecture class during a reenactment of the Schlieffen Plan (....Germany mobilizes towards Russia...then BAM surprises France through Belgium).  To replace them I got 2 pairs of jeans from the Gap.  Neither of them were as wonderful as those Lucky jeans, but also they were cheaper.

I've hated them for the past 5 years.  Or has it been 6?  All together it looks like a war but really it's been a thousand small battles of putting them on, feeling not quite right, then wearing them anyway because there was nothing else.

OK, I exaggerate. I have 3 pairs of jeans. The third pair is from Target (did I just admit to that?) and fit awfully.

The are too big in the waist and baggy at the knees and I bought them for my Mom's 60th birthday which I'm realizing was years and years ago.  Don't ask my why I haven't

X Marks the Spot

I come back from my 5 day trip to Cuba around noon on Saturday.

Stacks of exams I thought I’d tackle before the leaving town wait for me (patiently?). My mind is too full of what just happened to explain it clearly yet. 

I take great pleasure acting out the iPhone “incident” for my students, but then keep us all on track – we have to cover the Vietnam War, the 1980s, and all that comes after the Cold War. I don’t write much.

Summer settles in and I think about writing some of this story up for you but then I feel very urgently that I have to help a student write a book.  He falls ill and I stop writing and sit very, very quietly.

When the chapters do start coming out I feel better, but I am working so hard on writing the ENTIRE story that I don’t stop for some lingering stories along the way.

I didn’t tell you the rest of the story of what happened at the airport on the way in, and I didn’t tell you the shocking story my relatives did NOT want me to ask around about.  If there’s anything else, let me know. Soon. I want this book done; I have a deadline for it, and it’s rolling up quickly.

Meanwhile, my Mom loves every chapter I send her and giggles when she reads them.

She corrects little things, helps me with names, and instead of accepting her help I ask her to tell me later, please, when I have a pen etc. In order to finish the story quickly I have to keep looking ahead I can’t keep going back and fixing things up. If I do that I’ll never finish. 

She understands.  She’s easy like that.

The more I write, the more she reads, the more we remember, the happier we both are.

I didn’t mention earlier that before we even checked out the hotel in Cienfuegos I told Mom I wasn’t sure I’d need to come back to Cuba, that maybe I’d seen enough. 

She agreed. She hadn’t wanted to be the first to say it but maybe she’d seen enough too, maybe we didn’t need to come back, not here, not soon.

Later that day, after the whole “holding my underwear up” incident and while eating the most fabulous ham sandwich ever at the Cienfuegos Airport we looked around and said goodbye Cuba.

Maybe we’ll be back. Maybe.

But if not, thanks, this was good.

Fast forward to last week when I finished writing the first draft of the book.

Mom calls me, and with Dad in the background she says she loved it and then says this and that about Abuelo and her day.

A minute later I hear her close a door behind her.

Her voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper. “I miss you! I want to see you! We had so much fun! Let’s do it again, but somewhere different.”

OK fine, I agree.

Life seems shorter and shorter, and the years that we can do things like this are precious.

We half toss out ideas. Go to a conference? California? New Mexico? Santo Domingo? New Orleans? Puerto Rico? Orlando?

I don’t know, and it didn’t seem the right juncture to make a commitment. 

At that point one of my kids appeared and pulled me from my Mom and back into the reality of my kitchen on a long busy school day. 

Days pass, we let it go. I have classes and hours of carpickup and dinners to cook and laundry to do and more exams to grade (of course) and Mom has a more than full life of her own. 

Then she calls me and has my father on the phone. They are giddy.

She tells me they are going to ----- for 2 weeks, and they want me to come for a week of it. They will show me this, and that, and take me there, and of course to see that.

It’s not somewhere I’d ever thought I’d needed to go, and now all the sudden it’s the only place in the world I feel like I must see before I die (not that I’m dying, but really and actually everyone is always dying and seeing that brings a deep freedom from boredom and sins of that such).

It’ll be different traveling with them both, a different kind of wonderful.

Dad’s work phone rings and he has to run off, and I also want to get of the phone so I can research where we’re going.

I google it. Awesome, Rick Steves has been there. I’ve even seen the show on PBS on a day they weren’t holding me hostage and asking for money repeatedly.

Living on the Florida-Georgia border means I have 2 PBS stations that beg for money with “for just what it takes to buy a cup of coffee a day you can support programs like RICK STEVERS ***AND**** get this mug OR for the cost of dinner once a week you can get all that AND a DVD collection”

So whenever I’ve watched Rick Steves navigate small villages in Greece or drink in dark Pubs in Dublin, I never once thought, “pay attention Melissa, you might go there one day, too.”

I never paid attention, not for real, because I’m not the sort of person who travels, not far away to places so completely foreign.

For most of my life the idea of ever going to the forbidden and closed island of Cuba was so huge it shaped my heart and imagination. I never thought there’d be a time in my life AFTER I’d seen Cuba, after I’d written stories about Cuba. Now I’m there and I have to step into what comes next. 

Google earth drops me in a narrow street where a moped and a fiat looking car are frozen blurred zooming by.

I go up a block and up another block but nothing makes sense so I go to satellite view.

There, there they are. Built by Rome.

There, there it is, not built by Rome but just as delicious. 

I switch to the street view and go past wide steps to the front door.  From there I can click on pictures and get art that I stare at until my eyes go dry.

Yes, yes, my parents were right. Everything I’ve ever studied, all my coursework, all my reading, all my writing, takes me to this exactly place.

This is ground zero for every story I tell, every bit of my family, of all that came afterwards. Here, right here. So yes, I need to come and see it, touch it, sit there and breathe its air. 

I don’t want to overstudy it, I’d rather be surprised by the art when I get there, be captivated by the images and architecture, then come back and research what I’d seen.

This is probably the opposite of the scientific method. I’m OK with that.

I change the view and, oh, yes. Oh, it’s gorgeous. 

I take a screenshot. 

When this building was made no one was in the sky – no pilots, no satellites, not even hot air balloons drifting casually among the fluffy clouds.

Whoever made it might have considered it from an angel’s point of view, from God’s or perhaps Mary’s, and taken great care that it made a statement. Well it does.

When I see it the statement is clear. 

X marks the spot, as obviously as treasure on a pirate map.

Come here, RIGHT HERE, there is more treasure to find, more stories waiting to be hunted down and told.

5 Days in Cuba; Thursday - In Vino, Veritas

Mom's cousin Mila stands up to greet us. Where have you been, I've been worried, she says and my Mom looks guilty.

The two of them fall quickly deeply into a conversation and I take these pictures for you.

I'm in a sofa, set apart from them. There's no need for me here, I think I'll go check my mascara and leave them alone for a few minutes.

 I whisper to my Mom that I'll be back.

I go upstairs and play with my hair some and fix my lipgloss.

 Really I have nothing to do up here but I wanted to let them talk, they looked so serious.

  had a feeling what it was about and I wanted to step outside of that conversation, but after three minutes in the hotel room I knew I was hiding from it, leaving my Mom alone.

I pushed the elevator door to take me to the first floor, then remembered to take the stairs.

 I raced  down and arrived before the elevator doors opened. Score.

Mom and Mila were still sitting there in the hotel lobby still in a serious talk.

 I'm not sure who the guy is, but considering that later that night I'll have a huge revelation about being stalked, I wonder why he was standing there, listening.

I take this picture, breaking every rule of polite society regarding when pictures should be taken, then politely interrupt.

Can I have some of that water? Right there between you two?

They say yes then I offer, or WAIT can we go outside, by the pool and talk there?

Heads nod.  We go out there and sit at a table in the shade, right next to the bar, facing the gorgeous empty pool that is guarded by statues of lions.

Mom and Mila fall back into their conversation and I look around. Over there is a man with plaid shorts and no shirt, reading a thick book in English.  I'm very aware of wearing a long sleeved shirt and long jeans. My daughter always tells me I wear burqas and right now I feel like a nun.  No part of me would feel right in a bathing suit, just swimming in a pool in Cuba like that's a normal and OK things to do.

The waiter comes by and we order wine, white wine, and Mila orders a coke.

She's very serious and we are on vacation.

Before the wine arrives Mom tells me in English that Mila wants to come to the US.

I knew this, I understood their conversation, but I only nod, tight lipped.

The wine arrives, along with the cola for Mila.  One sip, two sips, small talk. Then Mom asks me in English and repeats herself in Spanish, "What do you think?"

I nod, sip sip. Maybe there is magic in this wine, maybe it will help me not say what I'm thinking, because what I'm thinking sounds like Rush Limbaugh.

I answer that I think it would be a lot of money -- thousands of dollars -- and that money would be better spent, here.

Mom translates.  Mila answers by shaking her finger and saying she wants to come and work.

Sip, sip, sip, almost finishing the wine. I ask her what it is she plans to do.

Clean houses, she offers and no, sip sip sip, I finish my tiny glass and say in Spanish then English so my Mom can say it again in 'good Spanish" that she can't come to the US and just work. There are people far ahead of you who speak English, who drive, who are just more familiar with the US. Also, she can't stay with me, she can't stay with mom, she can't stay in Abuelo's new place, so we weren't sure where she intended to stay.  Again, this isn't who I want to be.  But also, this isn't someone trying to flee a revolution, violence, civil war.  The pressure to make difficult decisions between helping close family and distant family just isn't "there."

She scowls a little bit.

 I scowl too, because I can't believe this is coming out of me.

 I swear to you I think in my heart this is the best country EVERRRRR and this country should be open to refugees and immigrants, that new Americans are some of the most productive economic engines.

But no. When faced with an actual person who wants to actually come the US I might as well be wearing Sarah Palin's red pumps. I'm against it, 100%, deflecting her optimism like a bully stomping on cupcakes.

Mom listens and listens to Mila's plans and I interject clarifications. Where does she think she would stay? How would she get THERE from there? Things like that.

More wine arrives.

Mila asks if she should call her daughter to join us for the evening and I shrug. I know my time with Cuban relatives is new and precious but I really really want more time with my Mom.  Mila has no choice but to accept that.

After spending the better part of two hours telling her that she had no place to stay in the US, that she would be lost and confused in the US, we also told her if she just wanted to come for a small vacation, maybe we could swing that.

 This was the wine talking. And love. Love of family and love of country together -  how could we, more American than Cuban, keep the awesome US from her?

We take more pictures.

Mila pretends to be happy but I think she hoped for a different answer. In my heart and soul I genuinely thought I'd be a person who gave a different answer, who was more like Jimmy Carter giving his speech where he welcomed Cubans "with open hearts and open arms" in 1980.  Oh well.

 After three glasses of wine Mom and I start to settle the bill and discuss what we will be doing next.

I suddenly want to watch the sunset on water, I *need* to see the sunset on water, and she agrees that would be the perfect ending to our day.

As we are waiting for our bill, Yamila re-appears. I thank her again for my earrings (I'm still wearing them as I write this). She giggles and I remember I promised her a book, so I leave them and race back up to our room. I grab two copies of "Four Days in Cienfuegos" and carry them down the stairs with me.

Before meeting up with everyone I put one book on the kiosk in the front of the hotel. This is the same kiosk where I realized the Russians spelled Cuba "KYBA" and thus caused Cubans to suddenly interject the letter "Y" into names, marking a generation of Yaisy's and Yasser's and Yamila's and Nateley's. You get the picture.

I take a picture of my book there, surrounded by communist-approved literature.

 Then I sign a book for Yamila and take a picture with her.

After that Mom and I say goodbye to Yamila then say a much more awkward goodbye to Mila.

We silently agree we want to help her, and also agree, equally silently, that coming to the US isn't the answer to everything that is wrong in Cuba.

She goes home and we go off into the street to flag down a Cubataxi to take us to the water, to the sunset, to where I'm called to be.


AMH 1041: Images for Exam #1

AMH 1041 - Tuesday/Thursday 1:05 class*
You will have 3 Big Questions that have an image and 4 ID terms that you'll need to connect.
Images will come directly from the ones posted here, so use these to study and practice.
It'll be fun ;-)

5 Days in Cuba: Thursday Part 4: Che Guevara and Songs of Pain

 In any other city we would have steered clear of an orange-haired stranger wearing red fishnet stockings on the corner in the middle of the day.

Today, here in Cuba, we are rolling with whatever happens. Since the universe sent this nice lady directly into our path holding a menu and asking us to lunch JUST as get hungry and thirsty, we say yes and follow her down a steep tourist-lined street and through a small doorway into a tiny restaurant. 7 tables of varying shapes are turned and tucked and twisted into approximately 1000, square feet.

A man with a blondeish ponytail sings to a table, surrounded by vivid art of pink horses and topless blue women.  I like it immediately, and we allow the woman with the crazy pantyhose to seat us at a small two-top table just outside the kitchen door.

Next to us was a long table of English speaking tourists.  Mom tells me to sit facing the door so I can see more of what is going on. This is perfect, I have the back seat corner, the best view for a writer.

Before I can look at my menu, before I can even absorb everything, I listen to the tourists at the table next to me speak loudly and freely, maybe thinking English was a secret language here, tantamount to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.

 A man talks about how heavy he feels, and how much he's lost over the last few years just from walking.  A lady shares a story about taking Alli and instead of losing weight she just pooped on herself. Mom and I keep a straight face. She reads the menu while I type into my iphone a memo "Lunch. Americans talking about Alli.  Poop." confident those  cues will help me remember the story for you.

The owner, a man in a pink shirt and plaid pants who speaks perfect English with only a mojito-sized mouthful of a Spanish accent visits with the table next to us.

They ask him questions about Cuba and Cienfuegos and Cuban History and he doesn't really know the answers and tells them so, but the room is so small his butt is practically on my shoulder and it's taking every bit of restraint to not just answer the questions.   This must be what it feels like to be undercover.

Mom listens too. A thin lady asks about race relations and segregation on the island and intermarriage on the island. The man in the plaid pants says that there's a good piece on race in Cuba and it was just on TV.

He pauses.  It was just on PBS, just last week.

I can't take it. I could move my elbow and bank him in his back and answer this quickly.  It's Africans in the Americas, I know this series, the new one, t is delicious.

He bangs his hand on his forehead, asks the cieling in English, "What is that series on... race..... on PBS.....:

I can't take it now, for real. I tug a the bottom of his plaid shorts, which rest just above my table.

Excuse me? Africans in the Americas.

His face lights up. YES! THANK YOU! You all should definitely check that out.

Someone at the table coughed and after that they talked in mumbles with each other, split their check and turned sideways to slip out of the restaurant.

Mom and I decided on the paella, testing our luck. It came with a salad, which we knew Mom would eat.   I ordered tostones "for research purposes" and to take this picture. Oh wait, this is the paella. The tostones went quickly. My bad.

As Mom and I ate, we listened to the man with the ponytail sing, and as soon as I recognized it was a song about Che Guevara I got an awful knot in my stomach.  I felt the sting of every exile who left this island every time Che's name came up, and I knew not to enjoy this song.

 But I had to document that it happened, that I live in a long imagined future where Cuba is open enough that I have visited a Cathedral, museum and private restaurant in communist Cuba.

The songs I've heard about Che are long and wailing. They are sad songs of lost heroes, like what the Irish brought to the US with them during the potato famine. This is Richie Perez and the guy in the plaid pants singing.

The restaurant clears and the singer comes closer to our table.

He asks if we would like a particular song and she asks if he knows this Cienfuegos song. His eyes light up. He does know it. It's a city song about itself, not quiet as delightful as what Jose Marti wrote about Guantanameras, something like the fight song.

Here you go.

The tostones were ridiculously wonderful, for the record.  They were on the thin side and extra crisp.  All and all delightful.

 The paella tasted of curry and seemed to have no identifiable seafood or pork. It was  basically dry yellow rice.  We didn't say anything and saved room in our stomachs for the other paella, later.

Richie the singer talks to my Mom for a couple of minutes, about things they remember and places and buildings. He is a Scorpio, and every piece of his jewelry means something.  The more he talks the more I see him as an artist stuck like Gilligan on an island.  He offers a CD for $5 and I think Mom pays him $20.

After that, we get up and turn ourselves sideways and slip out of the restaurant to the crowded street. It looks like schools have gotten out; a girl in a blue jumper goes this way while a pack of boys in brown pants sticks together closely, walking in perfect synch with the story that one of them seemed to be telling.

A few steps up that street and Mom took me down street lined with Victorian storefronts.

  We go in grocery stores, tiny ones that make Circle K look posh.  There is nothing To Go, no drink machines, no fast food counters.  One store has toilet paper under glass lockdown in display cases. Most of the stores  we tiptoed through had  plastic goods that look straight out of the dollar store -- bright colanders and stacks of pastel cups and pink baby toys.

I saw this and couldn't help taking a picture for you and yes the Cubans shopping in the tinyunairconditioned store did give me weird looks for taking this picture. Here you go.

 I saw a stack of sandals for $5 each and a corner of store that had shoes almost-as-cute-as-Jessica-Simpson-pumps.  They were $22.  This makes me let go of the idea that Cubans have no stores, no fashion. They have some.  I a few cute shoes but they barely compared to store after store filled with rows of mu-mus in flowered prints, and stacks of dark blue work pants.  In one of the stores I see rum for $10 and 2 liters of cola for $25.  Communism has not lead to price controls. Remind me to write a book about that.

After the stores we find ourselves on a crossroad with the Prado, the street that TiaLourdes lives on.  We walk about a block down the middle of the statue, tree and bench lined street.

A statue calls me, it is dedicated to a singer who was born in colonial Cienfuegos and sang songs of great pain. Her fashion statement is atrocious but I like her soul so I took this for you.

Do me a favor. Pretend you can't look behind her and don't see a pizzeria in communist Cuba.
We are across the street from TiaLourdes house; we could go there and say Hi and maybe stop by the bathroom. Like I told you, I don't want to share my Mom, and who knows what would happen once we cross that threshold.

I remember there's a coffee shop next to Teatro Terry, on the other side of the Cathedral.  Mom thinks that would be a nice place to go for a few minutes and on our way there we pass by the side of the hotel.  It is after 3pm, and Mom is worried people have been trying to reach us. 

Duh, of course people have been trying to reach us, I know not to say this, but the moments the two of us can be completely anonymous and just together are precious. I'm sure that if she checks in there will be messages and if there are messages there will be responses needed and I'm usually OK with that but today and just today I want my Mom all to myself.

Mom peeks into the our hotel from a wrought iron side window. We should go in she says. Again I tell her there is someone waiting, in a pink shirt, with a purse on her lap. 

Mom looks again and proclaims the lobby is empty.  

Fine, fine, we will go to the hotel and freshen up and figure out what to do from there.

As soon as we enter the hotel, I see I'm right. She's there, pink shirt, purse on her lap, posed at the first chair, wondering where we have been all day.  

I take a picture to prove I'm right and then slip off myself upstairs, so they can talk.

Which starts the next part of the whole adventure. 

5 Days in Cuba: Thursday Part 3: The Part Before it gets Awesome

One of the hardest parts as a storyteller is to forget where the story is going, forget that I know what the rest of the trip holds, and go back and be present in the small things that unfold in early Thursday.

After we finish taking pictures in front of the statue of my favorite Cuban-American, Jose Marti, I follow my Mom across the street. A large sign reminding Cubans of the 5 Cuban "spies" that have been held in the US glares at us.  Mom tells me she  heard one of them is free, that he lives in Hialeah and is happy. I believe her. 

The problem with the picture I took standing outside the Teatro Terry is that I cut off the rest of the tour buses that line the street. On this particular day, Thursday, I know that a tour from my college campus is somewhere in Cienfuegos doing something. This time with my Mom is too precious to share so I didn't share my itinerary or ask where the group might be. In my head, they could pop up around any corner. 

The first building we go by is the school of arts where my Abuela attended. This isn't a public place for tourists so we just walk by and smile, knowing we are walking in her steps, reminding ourselves of Abuela's happiest most carefree days.

Then we try to enter Teatro Terry, a building named after it's benefactor who also gave money to several other municipal enterprises and resources including an asylum for the aged. Those things have been taken over by the state since the  Revolution that hit Cienfuegos in 1957.  Post-revolutionary Cuba sees no citizens with the resources to be community benefactors, I understand that, and love learning about those who chose earlier to give their money to make this city great.

Many years ago my Abuela danced at this theatre. I think Abuelo was in New Orleans at the time, studying English at Holy Cross High School, literally 100 yards from where my father -- a stranger to him -- would grow up and later attend the same school. Cienfuegos and New Orleans are twisted together like that, like my DNA.

Once we enter the building I am enthralled.  

The lobby is lined with flyers from the heyday in the 1920s and 1930s.

 Mom and I take pictures by the ones we've heard Abuelo mention, and giggle at the pack of tourists who are looking around and asking each other quite loudly where they are and why this place is important.  

A very very skinny college-age-looking girl in skimpy shorts pouts to her boyfriend (husband?) that she's bored and he tells her they can go back to the bus after he takes  a few pictures. 

They're in a different Cuba than we are. 

Mom and I take pictures by the stage where we are sure Abuela performed. 

After that we get  into the chairs and take pictures.  

The bottom of each chair is marked with a sticker from a United Nations fund to protect the arts and history.

 For once I hope this is my tax dollars at work. 

The ceiling still has original painted late 19th century art.

I can't help but wonder how the social and racial segregation of this town played itself out in pre-Revolutionary society.

There is a big entrance to one floor that comes from one street and another entrance to a higher floor from a side street.

Is that how people kept themselves apart? Or is it a coincidence?

I don't know who to ask so I send this out to you.

 We leave the theatre and walk around the corner.

There is a center for artists that I'd love to go into, but it's not for us, not today.

 I take this picture for you so you can see the walkway we are under.

Around the corner Mom and I find an art shop with postcards and tshirts outside. At this point we could be in New Orleans or Key West or Jacksonville.

The shop is filled with brightly colored crafts that, if I didn't know better, I would recognize as Floridian or Creole.

Three steps past the art shop and Mom and I find ourselves at a museum of the history of Cienfuegos. 
She asks me if I want to go in and I give her this look like I could imagine wanting anything MORE than to go into a museum today. 

The lady at the front is wearing fishnet stockings and some sort of official uniform and is straining her brain to figure out if we are Cuban and whether to charge my Mom an admission fee or not, based on the fact she was born in Cuba. 

Before a minute can pass we offer up a donation for our entrance and walk into this huge building. 

If I'd known there was a building so close to my hotel -- not a block away -- full of historical artifacts I would have been here sooner. But because I refuse to plan, refuse to map out my time, here I am. Maybe I'm late, but maybe I'm just at the right time. 

One of the first rooms to the right is supposed to reflect a Spanish colonial dining room. It looks so exactly like my Tia Lourdes' dining room I can't help but take this picture for you. OK, maybe TiaLou has a 1920s fridge in the corner of her dining room, but that's the only difference. 

Around the corner from that room there was a row of statues that came from Spain. I can't imagine the trip these statues have had through Cuba -- colonial, Republic, Revolutionary -- but as an artist I'm delighted to meet them and take pose for this silly picture. 
  On the wall beyond that my Mom has stopped speechless.
There's the peacock gate, the one that was in front of mom's cousin Nena Becker's house from before the Revolution.  We stand in front of it in awe as the lady who works here explains it was all made from one piece.  Mom turns to the lady and says this is from my cousin's house, we're just so happy to see it's OK, that it wasn't destroyed.

No, it wasn't destroyed, the lady says, the adds, it's part of our history.

Past the gate we go to stairs and on the stairwell my Mom shrieks. 

OK, she kinda shrieks, maybe she laughs. She's found the street name from the preRevolutionary street they'd lived on. Before this we had no idea where those signs might have gone but here they are. Someone had the sense to say that Cuba is having a revolution but that doesn't mean everything that happened before now isn't real and didn't matter so they kept it. Thank you, whoever you are. 
 From there Mom and I walk through exhibits of Cienfuegos history from pre-Spanish times to the modern era. I'm most struck by the bones they excavated and displayed to show a native tradition of burying dead infants with adults to guide them through the heavens.

The guide explains to me that an adult would offer themselves to be sacrificed to be with the child. I nodded, silently. If you look you can see the reflection in the glass of her pointing to the bones.

 From there we went through rooms of memorabilia from the sugar boom, the 1920s and the revolution. I took 100 pictures that I won't bore you with here.

The guide offered to take us to a room of art, and we followed her. I see a statue and take a selfie with it -- that's our guide in the back with the fishnet pantyhose.  My mom asks why I took a picture with THAT statue and I tell her it's Jose Marti. The muustache and hair tell me so, along with the fact he's saved here in a city art gallery.

After we finish at the museum Mom and I realize we are thirsty and hungry.
Mom asks if we should go back to our hotel but I say no, I have a deep strong feeling that someone is waiting for us at the hotel, that it will disrupt our time together.

No joke, I feel towards my Mom like the US felt towards Cuba before 1959. I want her undivided attention.

I take a deep breath as we pass the side of our hotel and announce to Mom that someone is definitely there waiting for us. She's wearing pink and has her purse on her lap.  I'm sure she's in the first chair, as soon as you walk in.

Mom squints at me and asks me if I'm sure I don't want to go to the hotel and check in and check our messages.

I'm sure I tell her and we take a few more steps and are accosted by a woman with bright orange hair who is wearing red fishnet stockings.