Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Since my book The Handsomest Man in Cuba was first published in 2003, several people have gone over and used it to track down some of the people I met and stayed with. You can read about some of those encounters in this set of blog posts.
But I fell out of my saddle when Ken Lyneham from downunder actually went out of his way to locate the Handsomest Man himself. He's not the photographer on the cover (who could well be taking a photo of the Handsomest Man, or maybe Señor Hassleblad is just handsome inside) - but the hunk I met at the only fancy hotel I stayed in. And let me get the record straight - I shook his hand and that was it. So many people have written saying ... didja ... ? Puh-lese. Allow me to read you the closing line in that paragraph of daydreaming: "I let go of his hand." Yes, fully clothed and standing either side of a chicken wire gate we were, when we stopped shaking hands. Get it?
More thrillingly, Ken tracked down Lolita - the most beautiful woman in Cuba, at least in my eyes.
Ken wrote ...
Si, [I met] Roberto Fonseca Aguila, the one and the same, nice bloke too, very modest. He seemed perhaps, a little embarrassed when we read to him your soliloquy translated into Spanish. I didn't know if you remember or not, but you gave me a mission, if I chose to accept, and that was, if I was to make contact with Roberto, that I should take a photo of him. I have some really nice photos of Arismilda, Juan and their family. When we met them, she arranged for someone to go to daughter's school, to bring her home to meet us. Lolita? Well she is a truly lovely person, I'm not sure but I think Sylvia has her correct address and I am sure she would really love you to drop her a line or two ...
I am at the moment in the middle of writing up the journey we made. There were five people I wanted to visit from your book. Lolita, the bloke who lived in the two story house on the corner several streets up from where Lolita lives. The next was the young girl with arthritic knee who lives with her mother at Boca de Dos Rios. She is not her aunt as you mentioned in your book but her mother. The next was the 'Handsomest man' . He was extremely difficult to locate, you have no idea. Finally there was Arismilda and her family. We met them all except for the man in the two story house ...
Well I'm not going to rain on Ken's parade as he is writing his own story and I'll let him thrill you with it. All I can say is, Ken, I would have been bloody embarrassed too if I'd been in Roberto's shoes - or rather, flip flops. That paragraph reads somewhat like Mills & Boon soft porn. He probably ran for cover the moment he saw you across the road brandishing the book and pointing.
Meanwhile, here are Ken's photos of Lolita, Roberto and Arismilda and her esposo Juan. Everyone looks somewhat different from what I remember - after all, we ARE talking nearly years ago. I tried writing to these people but never got a reply - mail that is anything other than a postcard tends to go 'escondido' (missing). And yes, just like when I came face to face with the Handsomest Man in Nicaragua, my camera broke, meaning there were no more pictures after landing in Santiago de Cuba. Bummmmmmmmmmer. Thanks so much to readers who are taking me back there ... time for another visit - providing it doesn't screw up my Greencard. Ken's photos with his captions:
1. The photo of Arismilda and her husband, was taken in the sala of their house on the corner, opposite the bakery where Lynette tried to buy her bread rolls, in Manzanillo, Cuba.
2. This shot of 'The Handsomest man', was taken inside his house, in a quiet back street of Pilon. It took many kilometers and many more directions by "helpful" people, (99% of the directions were for the wrong Roberto),before we found the correct Roberto Fonseca Aguila. The lead that took us ultimately to him, was from his cousin Roberto Aguila, the man we were wrongfully directed to in the first place.
3. The third shot, is of the delightful Lolita. I took this one of her standing in her kitchen close to her new gas stove, (she got it free from the Government), that replaced the very smoky one used by her and Lynette. She had tears of joy when we read to her the parts where she was mentioned in, "The Handsomest Man in Cuba". as were all the others, Lolita was amazed to find that she had been made a part of a world famous travel book! [A mere legend in its own lunchtime, but I appreciate the support = The Gal]
4. That young girl [Nayra, with the arthritic knee] is now a teacher at a local school and was teaching when we arrived, so we didn't get to meet her. The photo I have attached here above is apparently in the room you slept in but with a new toilet added on - Ken
I must thank Ken also for popping by when I was in Sydney and fixing my smoking Apple Powerbook adaptor kinda like this.