Havana mi amor

This day last year was a very, very good day.

It started with me getting high as a kite on my first espresso in maybe ten years, at a paladar in a nondescript apartment building overlooking the city and the sea…

I then proceeded to the Callejón de Hamel to hear a Sunday rumba session that got me higher than the espresso did. The woman above was one of the dancers, and she floored me. Too bad my internet connection stinks or I would upload one of the videos from that day, which I keep on my phone for emergency pick-me-ups.

Then I ran into the guys above, just up the block…

…followed by this man, who called me over to ask me in very broken English where I was from. When I answered, “The United States,” he exclaimed, “Elvis Presley! Whitney Houston!” before starting to strum “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on his guitar. I sang the words and danced along in the middle of the street, feeling like I was in my own private movie. He gave me his address and mimed a request to send him the pictures I took. Since the resumption of mail service between Cuba and the US had been announced that very week, I promised him I would. And I did, though I will never know if they reached him, and what he thought when he saw his face smiling back at him.

Then I took a walk to visit these guys…

…and I quite literally pinched myself because it felt like a dream. The same feeling I had in Burkina Faso, where I was shooting this week. When you finally get somewhere you’ve wanted to go for years and years, it’s almost unbelievable to actually be there.

And the dreamlike feeling was also because it was as much time travel as geographic travel. Scenes like the one above needed absolutely no airbrushing to look like the golden age of Hollywood. Midcentury is such an emotional punch in the gut for me. I don’t know why. Maybe I grew up in the 50s in my past life.

And thus concludes the epic romanticization of one of the best days of my life, one year ago today.

[P.S. I “stole” this post from my Instagram account, where I also posted photos from the shoots I just finished in Mauritania and Burkina Faso.]

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