We got back to the ship, showered and went out into the cool of the evening. Our p2p obligations discharged for the day, we were ready to strike out on our own. I found a 1955 Chevy Bel Air convertible, two toned red and white and flying the American Flag. We went for a ride with Ignacio and Alejandro (uncle and nephew.) Ignacio owns the Chevy and is the mechanic who keeps it in beautiful shape with the original engine. Alejandro has a 1952 Plymouth which is not in such good shape. It is not running now, but because his English is better he acts as a cruise director for his uncle. This turns out to be a sunset cruise in the Bel Air. We started in Havana Vieja and cruised past Centro Havana, giving us a close up view of El Capitolio, through residential neighborhoods to Vedado, a newer, hipper part of Havana. Vedado developed during the depression as a watering hole for dry Americans who came to drink and gamble. The Myer Lansky’s Hotel Nacional is here, built on the model of the Breakers in Palm Beach. We stopped at the hotel bar with its “hall of fame,” pictures of the celebrities who drank here; Sinatra, Nat Cole, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and more recently Paris Hilton and Hugo Chavez. Vedado includes Revolution Square with its huge wrought iron face of Che backed by pink clouds of sunset.
We ended with a drive down the Malecon, top down, salsa music on the radio, just like riding with my Jersey City friend Al Lozano. (The number 1 song in the U.S. in 1955, when the car was built, was “Chery Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Cuban Band Leader Perez Prado.) But unlike riding with Al, we rode at a stately pace, waving at others riding in convertibles, crusin’ the strip. I feel like a kid. When I posted a picture on Facebook with the caption “Crusin'” a friend answered “Stylin'”