Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rain and La Reina

Sunday we woke up to more rain. Lots of it. And news of golf-ball-sized hailstones in Hialeah and someone being struck by lightning.

Seemed like a good excuse to eat breakfast in the hotel.

Our waiter, Lee, an older New York transplant, explained to us the fiscal benefits of choosing the buffet rather than picking a la carte. "That way, see, you get to try everything on the menu," he said. "Well, except for the pancakes, and the waffles."

But there was granola and fresh berries and fresh OJ and bacon and scrambled eggs and sausage and pretty good homefries and toast and pastries. And a help-yourself bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket.

Back to the room. Satellite images showed we were directly underneath a big red welt of storm, with a green amorphous blob of rain stretching far, moving slowly, across the area.

So I wrote for a while, and The Boy read, and we both watched the rain come down. Outside, on the street below, people were wading barefoot through ankle-deep water and yelling as passing cars sent up foot-high wakes.

At around noon, fortuitously, the skies cleared a little, so we decided to take a chance and head out for lunch.

After a couple of blocks of leaping wide puddles (and sometimes just giving up and going through the middle), we found David's Café, a 30-year-old neighborhood joint serving Cuban food. Perfect.

So The Boy ordered bistec empanizado, which came with pretty good rice and black beans. And I had the medianoche:



The food was a good prelude to our next stop: the Bass Museum of Art, where the Smithsonian's traveling exhibition ¡Azúcar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz was on display.

I've had a thing for Celia since I first heard her voice about ten years ago. There's a clarity and a joy and an inherent gift that's hard to describe. Just listen.

The Boy took me to see her at the Orpheum in 2001. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. This review pretty much captures the experience.

When she passed away in 2003, age 77, I cried. And I was just a British chick who hardly knew her. The people who'd followed her career from the 1950s, and those for whom she was a symbol of Cuban emigration, arrived in their thousands (more than 75,000 in Miami alone) to pay their last respects. The route through Manhattan to her funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral was lined with her fans.

So it would be fair to say that the exhibit is a pretty moving experience. As well as old interviews (including one in which her husband of 41 years says, "There are 24 hours in a day. For Celia and me, there are 25." Snif!) and performance footage, there are a few of her flamboyant custom-made outfits.



(Note the heel):



Yeah, I got the sniffles. But I wasn't the only one.

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