By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I have a neighbor who is 60-something years old, and he likes house parties a lot. He really does have a spectacular tenor voice and he is always a special guest at any house party that is put on. He sings any kind of 10-line poem and tune (décima). He asks me to compose 10-line poems, from time to time.
I remember that he asked me for one back in 2003. He wanted to sing it as a joke, in reference to the arrival of some landline phones that were being handed out by the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), and a committee would give them out by reviewing the “merits” of every applicant beforehand. Those interested would need to hand in a kind of autobiography, which would summarize their revolutionary activity. A few phones per block or neighborhood, and lots of applicants.
It ended up being a low-quality 10-line poem, but it was very funny. I’m not a poet, at all. Plus, I had a fat notebook from my 20s, with over 100 romantic and corny poems – sonnets, 10-line poems, freestyle poetry, etc. – which I would be embarassed to show anyone today.
What happened with the phones didn’t come as a surprise. I went to watch one of the meetings when they would tell locals who was going to get one. Only three people did. My wife at the time, a newly-graduated dentist had applied for one.
We knew that her chances were slim compared to everyone else. For example, there was an old man who had a reputation of being a long-time snitch, the kind that come with their chest puffed up at any event, dressed in their sleepless military uniforms, proudly displaying dozens of medals.
There were also other applicants with better collateral when it came to revolutionary duty.
Well, anyway, the show really kicked off when they announced the three lucky winners.
Somebody said that they didn’t agree because they always did their CDR shift and had gone on a mission to Angola, while so-and-so had children living in the US. So-and-so said that had nothing to do with it because he was a blood donor and belonged to the Party. Nobody dared to stick it to the former combatant, but things were heating up.
By the time the women had started to take part, the discussion had already taken a really degrading turn. That so-and-so is a worm, that so-and-so is a wanker, that your daughter is a real jinetera (whore)… that was the last straw.
Throwing in the towel, my wife went home, going far away from that disorderly riffraff. I watched the scene unfold with a mixture of disgust and embarassment for those involved, but I have to admit, it was also a little fun.
That week, I learned that there had even been fights over this whole phone business at some neighborhoods CDRs. These phones were “killers” like the Panda TV sets, decades ago, as they were called back then in popular humor.
Recently, my neighbor asked me to write some verses for him about the new Coronavirus. But no, I won’t do it this time. Like the saying rightly goes: “Now is not a good time”.