California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

Daniel Arevalo

Photo by Christine Andersen/Contributor

Photo by Christine Andersen/Contributor

Daniel Arevalo,
Contributor

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Expression of love and emotion

From fifth grade to junior year of high school, I played the alto saxophone for the symphonic and jazz classes. I never loved it, however. I was always too timid to solo, too scared to risk being vulnerable in front of an audience.  My teachers always pushed me to try it out and take the risk, but I never did. In the seven years I played, I never played a single solo. I regret that today.

My cohorts and I sat and waited so intently for the musicians to take the stage. As they began setting up, I was amazed at the instruments being put out: two different types of trumpets, a full drum set, bongos, another sideways type of bongos, a synthesizer or electric piano, and many other smaller percussion instruments. The moment they started playing, I was taken aback by the strength of the music.  All the instruments playing different tempos, their own pieces, and yet together it sounded like something purposefully composed.  Of course, some was coordinated, but the beauty of jazz is that the same song will never be the same. There will always be some new flare added, a new element that the musician wishes to use as an expression of the current mood they are in when playing the piece.

The fingers of the pianist were too fast to watch, they made me dizzy. The drummer seemed to be making more simultaneous sounds than humanly possible with hands and two sticks. The melody of the trumpet was so smooth it hypnotized me; I swayed to its rhythm because it forced me to. I could not stop moving. My feet, my hands, my torso all moved because the music pulled it back and forth and up and down. By the end of the first song, I was left mentally and physically exhausted by the journey these four musicians had taken me on. It was absolutely remarkable the way it infiltrated the nerves coursing through my body.

Listening to each song being played with such love and energy, I regretted that I never had that drive to use the alto saxophone as an expression of my mood and feelings the way that these musicians were doing. The emotion in their faces while playing their parts was a clear indication of their love for the instrument and their love for the mutual goal of delivering this beautiful work of art to their audience, despite how big or small the crowd was. I was able to speak with the director of the band, the drummer, during their break who was also the eldest. He seemed to be one of the most content humans I have ever met and I am certain it is a reflection of his chosen profession.

 

A long taxi ride

My taxi ride that should have taken more or less three hours took more than five hours. I absolutely loved the adventure. I met the taxi driver at the bus terminal in Santa Clara, in the province Villa Clara, where many taxi drivers wait for clients.  They wait for Cubans or tourists that want to travel on the Via Azul bus but are willing to take a taxi if it is cheaper and faster. Unfortunately, I was the only individual heading to Havana from Santa Clara so my fare was not split among other passengers.

About a half hour into our drive, the cab driver stopped at a man’s house on the side of the freeway and said he needed to get gas.  Like almost all Cubans I have met, this was this man’s illegal side business.  Somehow he was getting gas at a cheap price and reselling it to the community at a cheaper price than the gas stations.  Twenty CUCs later, the cab was filled up and ready to go.  

As the ride went on, the weather became aggressive.  It was the third rainstorm I had seen in Cuba and like the others, it poured hard. Lightning and thunder in combination with the deep holes that covered the road prevented my much-needed nap.  After an hour of constant worry for my life, the driver pulled over and mentioned a flat tire.  It was too far to the next Cupet (gas station) and he had to change it there on the side of the road. He spent nearly an hour under the natural gushing faucet of clouds switching out the tire. He was completely drenched when he got back in the car. He took off his tank top and sat in the freezing air conditioned car, which was necessary to prevent fog on the windshield, so I gave him two shirts. One was a dry tank that he was able to stretch over himself, another I wrapped around him because it was warmer but too small to fit into. I think he was too proud to thank me, but it didn’t bother me.

Another hour into the ride, he pulled over again. He told me we were out of gas now. There was a leak and we lost all the fuel and like most cars I have ridden in, the gauges in the dashboard were broken. Luckily, he knew enough about the car to figure out what the issue was, and it was a quick fix. We also lucked out because the storm had let up in that part of the country. Then, finding more gas would have been more difficult had the first truck we flagged down not been as courteous to stop for us. They sold us another 25 CUCs of gas after siphoning it out and into our taxi and finally we were on our way to Havana once again, this time without interruptions.

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Daniel Arevalo