Thursday, July 05, 2007

El Sonero Australiano

My friend Peter, who is called Pacho in Latin America and who refers to me as his "equis esposa," met me in Mexico City last December where we had a couple good meals, visited the Blue House - Fridha Kahlo's estate - and witnessed some bizarre street, or rather, subway, theatre: A young man, maybe 16 or so, squatted on the floor of a subway car. He was only wearing cut off pants, so was barefooted and shirtless. Although I speak Spanish, I didn't understand his rantings as he laid out a piece of cloth that contained shards of glass. He swept the shards into a small mound with his hands, then threw himself backwards onto the mound. When he rose I saw that his back was slashed with white scars and red cuts. He put out his hand for money as he passed through our car and onto the next, where he repeated the performance.

I still laugh when I remember the look on Peter's face, the pinched look of shock and disgust on the face of a man who has practically seen it all, lived and traveled all over the world, and has had enough notable and weird experiences to fill many books (one of them, I am assured, will mention me). When I met him he was living in the house rented by an old middle school friend of mine in Hermosa Beach, scraping by on his silk screened t-shirt business. During a time while I lived in New York and flew for Pan Am, he lived in East Berlin - this was before the fall of the wall - and ran with a revolutionary crowd and, if I remember correctly, produced a literary or political 'zine. After many years in the states he returned to Oz and got his barrister's license and now works for, among other things, aboriginal land rights.

After several days in Mexico Peter went on to Cuba for a three-week visit. I had originally planned to go along but after hearing a news report about secret service agents waiting in Mexican airports to catch Americans returning from Cuba I thought better of it. Peter had been telling all of us he was going to make a record while in Havana, and damn if that isn't exactly what he did.

To listen to a new voice interpreting some old Cuban standards and read about the famous Cuban band that helped it happen, go to

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