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garbage from havana.

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I loved Havana.

this has been documented in a photo gallery [one of my personal favorites] a podcast from the balcony where this short begins, as well as a street musician who’ll break your heart.

I loved it so much, I even posted how to sneak in.

and – in the midst of all of that – there were some gorgeous shots that ended up on the cutting room floor. maybe they were shaky, maybe it was too dark, maybe it was funny without relevance… whatever. but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them in the trash.

so, to the tune of my favorite Cuban song, from my favorite Cuban voice – the gradoux.

the beautiful gradoux.

 

 

rodovaldo suarez – blind street musician [havana]

cuba [havana] ’11

 

a walk through old havana

for all of the videos I’ve taken/edited/produced, this simple walk around the old city was my favorite. as you can see, there’s been no post-production [aside from editing it down – was 30 mins]; these are the colors, sounds and shakes of this magic city.

a queen and country – show three [from havana]

1. ‘there’s this apartment balcony… right in the heart of old havana…’ 2. ibrahaim ferrer ‘boliviana’ 3. ‘… keeping it from turning into miami…’ 4. omara portuondo ‘la cumbacna’ 5. [old time radio – ‘highjacked to cuba’] 6. don azpiazu and his havana casino orchestra ‘true love’ 7. ‘… the hissssss sound for fake cohibas…’ 8. compay segundo ‘fransico guaybal’ 9. ‘… it’s because he was blind…’ 10. [busker] rodovaldo suarez [unknown track] 11. ‘… opening up the nightly bottle of many rums…’ 12. ry cooder and manueal galban ‘bolero sonambulo’ 13. [end]

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[right-click to download]

new this week – March 5th

well, wow. this will be a big one. but we couldn’t exactly talk you into joining with just a few things up, could we?

here’s what you got:

videos

Times Square… from my Vespa – we went to the most over-touristy crowded annoying spot in NYC so you don’t have to.

The Great Mayan Road Trip Adventure Journey Experience – I rented a Jeep in the Yucatan to spend a few days visiting the ruins. I’d get lost. I’d get some snacks. I’d have to pay a lot of money to a few dodgy policemen. and I’d get Chichen Itza all to myself.

The Shanghai Show – Pilot Episode – back in the day, I had this amazing idea to – once a week – have a show highlighting the city that I called home for 4 years. in this one, we look at The Bund, my maid explains local cuisine, an introduction to Shanghainese – the local dialect and I tape a camera to my moped and through an old decaying neighborhood.

Seattle Drinkin’ Holes – while producing a project on this quirky city, I asked 3 pals of mine to take me to their favorite spots… and share a few of my own.

A Walk Through Old Havana – that’s it. I turned the camera out, walked out of my apartment and around the neighborhood I stayed in for a few weeks.

Birth of The Hamburger – we visit the place where it all started… in Connecticut.

An Ecuadorian Enema – exactly what it says. I get one. and film it. [viewer discretion is advised]

A Guide to Western Australia – last year, I spent a few weeks taking in Perth, Rottnest Island, and the vineyards of Margaret River in a campervan.

The Ayahuasca Adventure – having been obsessed with finding this sacred plant ever since reading The Yage Letters [highly recommended], I journeyed to the North of Peru to find a well-known shaman, and have a private ceremony with him. what I could film, I did. there was also a microphone running the entire 4 hours.

– The Shanghai [Exile] Diaries – Trailer and Part 01 – Bangkok – having gotten myself in trouble with the Chinese Government, I hid in SE Asia, India and Nepal for 6 months. and filmed a large portion of it. [note: original series was shown on Current TV.]

– How I Was The First Up On Machu Picchu for 2012 – don’t know if I’d mentioned that before or not? my first piece for National Geographic? here’s exactly how to do it. from a guy who walked around for 2 days with a ridiculous GoPro camera on his head.

– A Good Day In: Austin – [my new favorite series to produce]. we show you exactly how to have the perfect Sunday in the 512. food, drinks, music, snacks, vinyl, graffiti, cupcakes, tattoos and drinks.

– Down The Bolivian Death Road… On A Mountain Bike – 200-300 death a year on average. scary. and I took a mountain bike down it.

podcasts

okay, this has the possibility of being a long entry, so let’s truncate.

you got 5 different kinds of shows.

AQueenAndCountry – I walk around with a mic, recording local musicians, buskers and more. or I find someone who can speak English and have them play me their favorite tracks. so far, we have Austin, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and Peru. [note: the Mexico show wasn’t all about local music. nor was Austin, for that matter. but after experiencing the magic of Cuba, I decided to make this program for local music only… and then for just regular good songs, start the show below.

Tracks – easy. fun. 5 songs you might not have heard before. or want to hear again. my taste is impeccable. shows one, two and three.

Rough Sundays [re-release] – old gospel. blues. and more. so far, we have the pilot showepisode 1 and two.

O.M.K.O.S. – I battled with re-releasing this old shows, as they were done with a Brother who left us a few years ago. but I know he would have wanted me to, so I did. listen to the pilot episode. more coming soon.

and then you have the Specials – interviews, etc. first show is me sitting down with San Pedro’s most famous inmate, Daniel Foley.

photos

before I had this idea for a website, my original plan was just to sell them for $5 each. but now they’re free. download them, print them out, use them for whatever… all rights are waived if you’re a member.

India

Paris

Mexico [The Mayan Ruins Road Trip]

Egypt

Vietnam [Saigon]

Cuba [Havana]

– and in between of them, you have O.P.P. [short for Other People’s Postcards. found them in this old antique shop in Philly, bought loads. all of them handwritten, some dating back to 1909.]

writings

there’s a lot. I like to write. here are some highlights:

 

– I love Otis Redding most. I love snacks second most. everywhere I go, I snack. and I take a photo. and I write about it. I love snacks.

an interview with Augustine, the antiquated owner of a music-obsessed bar in Colombia.

– travel tips… the ones I didn’t hand over to NatGeo.

The Yage Emails – I write to my Ginsberg [Adam Cohn] and he writes back to his Burroughs [me]. it starts out about finding this plant, but deals with a lot of other stuff. as of now, we have 7 or 8 letters posted. there are more.

my addiction to coca tea.

the loneliness of the road. it’s happened a lot this trip.

– how to go about bathing properly in the Ecuadorian town of Banos.

– getting into a fight in Peru. ending up in the police station in Peru.

– what it was like seeing my name under that golden border of National Geographic for the first time.

– Route 36 – finding the hidden cocaine bar in La Paz.

trying to break into a prison.

– being broke… again.

… and a whole lot more.

go get ’em.

and thank you.

a.s.q.

the yage emails – nov. 26th 2011

to: adam cohn — from: aric s. queen — date: 11.26.2011 — [re: re:] re: hello adam

adam.

agreed. but look forward to when we’re given time/space/wine to go on-and-on about things… isn’t it funny we’ve never had that chance? funny and touching, to be honest. I like our friendship, although, as stated, I could always use more of it.

old havana + che: you’re spot on. would people even know about him if t-shirts and hemp bags were never invented? would buddha be as popular without the [horrendous] creation of house music and clubs in Bali? who’s to say – but I doubt it for both. I liken it to the dreadlocked muppets sitting right here in this hostel as I write you. they quote Peter Tosh, as it to one-up the listeners to Bob Marley, but know rastafari as far as Trenchtown, with no realization of who Haile Selassie is/was. [for the record, I barely do – and had to spell check his name… but still.]

are we getting old and grumpy? I find myself more annoyed these days at people like the above. and loud music. and people who let their kids just cry in public. and no wifi in a hotel that advertises wifi. and god help me if a good b.m. doesn’t make my whole day. I kid you not. there was this gal the other night in the bar in a place I would love to take you who came and sat next to me and we started talking [as much as a non-spanish speaker and a non-english speaker can] and she asked if I wanted to go ‘somewhere else with her’ and, wouldn’t you know it? I laughed and said ‘no’. I’m sorry, but the music was too good. I’m turning down sex and it does make one giggle. don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a common occurrence [not the not turning down sex, but the girls outright suggesting it… as said, I’m getting old.]. anyway – are we getting old and grumpy? I do hope for a time when you and I can sit on some old chairs down by a lake or something with coffee-spiked bourbon and Lemmon/Matthau the evening out.

I like comparing us to old duos.

speaking of which – just rewatched Tombstone and was reminded of two things:

1. that was the best character Val Kilmer has ever played. ever. and whoever wrote his lines should get a medal or some money.

2. Kurt Russell used to be a sexy muthafucka. rewatch The Thing/Tango and Cash if you disagree.

anyway.

I write you now from Popayan, Colombia. it might have been the same place I wrote you before, it might not be. anyway, it’s a fine little town, with nothing to do.

think I found an angle into some ayahuasca, but you might laugh. there’s some ‘ceremony’ happening easy of Quito in a week and change, and from what I can gather from the website, it’s touristy as fuck. but maybe that’s a good thing? less potent? no… I want it to be all potent. if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done right. time travel. an accompanying shaman who ‘guides’ you [to where? what if I just want to get stoned and see some things? what if I don’t like where he takes me? stranger-danger and that kind of stuff]. anyway. I emailed them and said ‘I want to make sure this isn’t some silly tourist portion’ and then ‘can I bring a few cameras and a microphone?’. they might not like that. I read some article where everyone was all weird about the seating/lying positions before it happened – energy and headspace and all of the other ridiculous things people talk about after they learn how to tie Thai fisherman pants. we will see.

this asshole sitting in the same room – the only room we can get wifi [see: above] is singing ‘ding-dong the witch is dead’ over-and-over-and-over-and-oh my god I might stab him in the leg.

old and grumpy. yes. I don’t know if you’re there. but I sure am.

you should listen to Frightened Rabbit’s album ‘Winter of Mixed Drinks’. it was given to me as an iTunes gift [which, ironically enough, sits right below your gift many months ago] from the girl who fucked me up years ago and for whom I will forever be the poster child of Stockholm Syndrome for [we’ve spoken about her]. her perfection goes even deeper than one might think with musical choices. the other year, she sent me Jonsi’s solo album. good, good stuff. give it a listen [Mixed Drinks].

good lord, they’re all ‘going to give each other massages’ now.

I want to put my finger down my own throat so that whatever enlightenment this group got at their last drum circle will now smell of empanadas.

be my Lemmon?

a

the yage emails – nov. 19th, 2011

to: aric s. queen — from: adam cohn — date: 11.19.2011 — [re:] re: hello adam

dear aric:

it is always too long. perhaps it’s cliche, but it never feels hard to pick back up however. i do find it strange at times that we relate to one another. despite my fervent and irrational creative inside, i keep it pretty buttoned up and dialed on the outside, whereas you seem free to have it all flying all the time. we could go on and on about this however.

old havana. amazing. you’re down there with the ghosts of old-fashioned global capitalism, local patriots and CIA agents who never got the chance to finish their mission, along with every 60s era automobile not in Los Angeles.  I read a biography of Castro a few years back, it was amazing how he convinced everyone he would bring a more representative government, and literally days after seizing power began his authoritative rule. it also makes me laugh that so many american brands want to use Che as a indie graphic for their tees and hoodies. i get the feeling he’d burn every garment if he had the chance . . .

One of the most erotic photoshoots i ever saw was of a woman in a corrugated shack in Havana. it was for some fashion brand, Chloe or Givenchy, something like that. the woman wasn’t necessarily the most beautiful ever seen, but she was simply sex. she was pure desire and want. perhaps that is a bit of what you are seeing down there.

As i mentioned to you, I am embarrassedly unaware of the Yage letters, but a quick wikipedia look got me a bit acclimated. it makes me happy to associate our correspondence with the likes of ginsberg and burroughs. i hope sometime we get to have kerouac/cassady conversation however. i remember a passage from “on the road” where Sal shows up in NYC at Dean’s coldwater flat. Dean rubs his hands together and utters something like “yes, yes, yes, now Sal, we can finally sit down and talk. we will sit down have a long long talk.” Then i think they popped bennies and spent the next 2 days face to face letting it all out. For now, we’ll take care of it via these letters, but i think you had it right when you spoke of Coney Island. We always seem to scratch the surface, but we’ll need to take that time to have a long long chat one day.

One more note, i’ve just remembered the beat poet that have read. its Richard Brautigan. I fell in love with his blunt statements in his collection “Rommel Drives Deep into Africa” and didn’t even realize he’d written “Trout Fishing in America” until much later. i’ll drop you a few choice passages in the next letter if it makes sense. Did you know that some kid in the US loved that book so much, he officially changed his name to “Trout Fishing in America?” his high school teachers didn’t know what to do with him, so they called him Trout. I was hoping they’d call him “Mr. America.”

As perhaps you are being heartbroken by the women of Havana, i’ll leave you with a poem about heartbreak.

love: adam

 

“Peaches or Plums” by Alan Michael Parker

 

Oh, how I hate my mind,

all those memories

that have invented their own memories.

 

Take my first love, for instance,

how after Mass we’d kneel

underneath the back stairs

 

and kiss and kiss and kiss and.

Were her lips like peaches or plums?

She was Catholic and she wanted

 

to be bad, and I loved her

more than baseball,

but all the other days

 

divided us, carry the one,

nothing left over. So strange,

only to kiss on a Sunday,

 

to hold my own breath again

for a week, another 10,022

minutes of wretched puberty,

 

until she moved to Iowa

or Ohio or the moon.

Oh, I can still remember

 

nothing about her,

only kissing, and the impossible

geometry of the descending stairs

 

that rose to the church kitchen,

her breath like hot nutmeg

and a little like the ocean;

 

and once, oh my god, she bit me,

a first taste of my body,

blood in her smile.

 

cuba [debrief]

– getting in is not as hard as some make it seem. but be smart

– the food is horrendous. you’ve been warned.

– rum is taken neat. in a glass. no one from Cuba drinks mojitos.

– the double-decker tour bus costs $5 and takes you to quite a few places, including revolutionary square. a taxi will run $20.

– the old convertible cars we all dream of will also take you around town. for a hefty price tag.

– the hissing is annoying. but it’s cultural.

– stay away from political discussions. they’ll initiate them if they want to talk.

– the food is horrendous.

– pedi-taxis are a fun way around. once. after that, just walk.

– Cuba’s one of the safest places in the entire world. much of this is due to them being amazing people, another part has to do with the government jailing anyone who fucks with tourist. should you find yourself in any jam, a few words of ‘policia?’ and ‘problema para tourist?’ will do the job.

– the cigars you’re being offered aren’t Cohibas. buy those at the airport. find someone local who’ll sell you some of theirs – going rate is around a dollar each.

– rum is dirt cheap. a bottle of Havana Club or Santiago is no more than $5.

– coffee comes as espresso. offer to buy whoever you make friends with one.

– reggaeton currently rules. best just to accept it.

– sadly, because of the economy, most single women expect money to sleep with you. do yourself [and them] a favor and stay away from this. as sad as it is, they will prevail as a people without your dirty cash. and don’t kid yourself to think there won’t be a discussion of money – there will be. and it’s done in the heat of the moment, when you’re at your weakest.

– bring a few old shirts, etc from your home country. give them away.

– internet is not widely available. keep this in mind when booking. a phone call works best. if you do need to get online and are paranoid about Big Brother, buy a VPN. wireless access runs about $8 an hour at the nicer hotels.

[end]

 

how to get to Cuba as an American.

a lot of people will stress the technicalities of Americans visiting Cuba.

‘we’re allowed to go’, they’ll quote, ‘we just can’t spend money.’

this statement is usually followed with a forced twinkle in the eye/wink/smug look of aren’t you glad you asked me?

but they’re wrong.

we’re not allowed in.

the trade embargo is what kicked this off.

if the U.S. finds a stamp from Cuba in your passport, you’re in trouble.

the most common trouble will be a big fine.

it’s not a matter of ‘did they find receipts of you spending money?’, you went to Cuba. and we’re not supposed to.

I’ll stay away from the whole ‘Home of The Free’ parallels, and just explain how to sneak in.

in 10 easy steps.

1. you have to enter from either The Bahamas, Mexico or – strangely enough – Canada. what you don’t want to do is buy your tickets online. find an agent there, pay cash – no paper trail. there are plenty of travel agents in any of these places who can help you out. again… cash. you’d be surprised how many people buy online.

2. take out enough money beforehand to last you your entire time in Cuba. you won’t be using the ATM’s because of the aforementioned paper trail. if you’re wanting to sample a large number of mojitos in every place that claims Hemingway drank there, eat out at decent restaurants, stay in a nice hotel, take day trips, etc, I’d budget for $200 a day. if you’re on a budget [and I am – shockingly], then you’ll be staying in someone’s home [casa particular – more on that in a bit], eating from street carts and buying bottles of rum from the shop and drinking it someplace other than a bar, then go for $100 a day.

3. when you get to the airport, you’ll have to buy a visa there. the airline agent will direct you where to do this – it’s a pretty easy/straightforward process. for US citizens, it’s $25.

4. once you land, you’ll stand in line like everyone else. when it’s your turn, a few nice words in Spanish and a quick ‘no stamp, please, I’m American’ will do. they’ve been trained to stamp a piece of paper which will stay in your passport until you leave, but it doesn’t hurt to confirm. also – you might be asked to show proof of health insurance. if you don’t have this, then you’ll have to go to the back of the large room and pay for some. for my 10 days there, it cost me $35.

5. once you’re out, stamped, and have your bags, change a few hundred bucks or so at the banks inside the airport. the rate is horrible – as it always is, but just get enough to last you for the first few days.

6. you can find a hotel/home stay with the travel agents situated right there next to the currency exchange. there are no cheap hotels in Havana. there are big nice fancy hotels and there are casa particulars – a room in someone’s home. this might seem weird, but it’s how it’s done. plan on $20 a night, $5 more if you want breakfast. I hated mine – it was ages away from old Havana, kids were running around and there were no windows. I did get amazingly lucky that night though by eating at a restaurant with some amazing folks, who told me to rent the apartment right across the street. I took one look at the bay windows, balcony, kitchen and location and immediately agreed to the $30 a night. it was my own place, no families and right in the middle of old Havana. if you’re headed there, email me and I’ll put you in touch with the family.

7. you can change the rest of your money at any of the hotels near the main square, but if you’re changing USD., you’ll have to pay a hefty 10% tax. I checked in a few other places and they all said the same thing, so I assume this is normal. come to think of it, they didn’t charge this at the airport, so the horrendous exchange rate might have been better than the 10% tax. might be worth researching. in Cuba, it should be said, there are two kinds of currency. you’ll be given the Convertible Peso [called ‘Cul’], which is basically 1:1 with the dollar. locals use a different money, but can easily switch between the two.

8. before you leave, if you’re the very, very careful type – throw away all ticket stubs and postcards/gifts/etc you might have bought. upload all photos/videos to a hosting site/ftp and erase everything from your cameras. this might seem like overkill, but quite a few have been caught after customs took a look at their gear.

9. when flying out, you’ll need to pay a $25 airport departure tax – this can be done in USD or Convertible Cuban Pesos.

10. now, here’s where it can be tricky. if you fly back to the place you flew out of, let’s say it’s Cancun – you’ll have two entry stamps in your passport from Mexico, but nothing in between the two dates. I think this is a silly way of sneaking in/out. it’s hard to argue what you were doing [sailing, maybe?] with that right there in front of them. what I would do is fly to Jamaica, The Bahamas, etc afterwards, which would alleviate any questions that might be brought up.

a pain in the ass? sure. but it’s worth it a hundred times over.

Cubans know that Americans have to go through a few hoops to get in and they love it when you do – everyone has an Uncle in Miami, so throw that into the conversation and you’re gold.

aren’t you glad you asked me?

[end]