Category Archives: Cuba

90 miles to Cuba

It’s funny to think that the closest city to Key West is Havana. It’s about 90 miles to Cuba in a straight line from the buoy that marks the most southern point of the island. By the same token, there is about a 155 miles drive to Miami on a congested road that hops all the Florida keys by stretches of causeways that on occasion are 7 miles long. The old railroad bridge built in 1912 and destroyed in the Labor Day hurricane of 1934 was partially converted as bike trail and fishing place siding the new highway that connects the mainland to the most southern tip of continental US.

But in Key West, you feel the Cuban atmosphere with music played live in all bars and restaurants where you enter unobstructed by any type of control and you can dive directly to the dance floor and swing in the accords of a live band in rhythms of rock and roll.

And like anywhere in Cuba you may buy a drink in a bar, dance there, take your drink with you to the next bar and continue your night there and to the next, and the next, till the wee hours of the night. From Captain Tony, to El Meson de Pepe, to Smoking Tuna, to Fats Tuesday, to Rick’s or Durty Harry ending in Sloppy Joe’s that has a less elegant interior but a way more alive atmosphere than the one in Havana. Sloppy Joe’s of Havana is the precursor of the one in Key West established only in 1933 in the current Captain Tony’s Bar.

No matter where you go you’d find the bars and restaurants full even offseason, some of them displaying signs of “optional clothing” that gave me problems walking with my big camera around my neck.

And to have a complete flair of Havana you have to make the pilgrimage to Hemingway House, still the largest in Key West and populated by 59 six-fingers cats, an inheritance from an old mutant cat received by Papa as a gift. His house, interesting as it is, it’s not even closely decorated as is Finca Vigia, Papa’s villa from Havana that still looks like he just left for a drink to La Floridita and never returned. And this is probably what actually happened in 1961 in Havana, a city that he loved as much as he loved Key West.

But nothing else beats the sunsets of Key West with people filling the chairs on the Mallory Square dock ready for the spectacular nature show in the accords of relaxed music and nursing a mojito to be in tune with across the water Cuban atmosphere.

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Posted by on September 21, 2019 in Blog, Cuba, USA



Brooklyn Book Festival, one of America’s premier book festivals and the largest free literary event in New York City, happens this year around the Borough Hall Plaza and in its vicinity, September 16 – 23.
I am delighted to post that New Meridian Arts, the independent publishing house ran by the tireless Nava Renek, was present at the event and on display, the stand has also the book I published a year ago “Between Ceausescu and Fidel” that was appreciated by the visitors and sold a number of copies. It’s humbling to know that with so many famous authors, some of them giants of American literature, all showing their work, my love story with and about Cuba was noticed by book lovers.

Nava Renek and New Meridian Arts at BKBF, Brooklyn, NY

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Posted by on September 17, 2019 in Blog, Cuba, Romania, USA



It looked almost like a funny coincidence that a guy from an old Commie country reads about life in two Commie countries, one ex and one actual, on May First in the KGB Bar in East Village, the perennial heart of the left wing movement of New York. What else did we miss? The Black Maria waiting on 4th street?

Any way, I want to thank to all who came for the reading and for all who sustained me on all social media avenues that still represent a mystery for me in their convoluted ways. My reading as well as the other authors’ readings were fun, exuding a joyful atmosphere and it looked that everybody had a great time. Hopefully we’ll do another at one point grace to our publisher Nava Renek and New Meridian Arts.


And for many who could not come but emailed me that they would have died to be there – actually I made this up – please click on the image that would give you a little excerpt from the reading, but this time with a – very, very, very rough – edit of scenes from Havana. Or click here

The book is available on (click here) or on Amazon, (click here)

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Posted by on May 6, 2018 in Blog, Cuba, Romania


New Meridian Arts Press Release

The book is available on Amazon, (click here) or on (click here)

A first reading from the book will happen on May 1 at 7:00 PM at KGB Bar in East Village – 85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, USA (map)

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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Blog, Cuba, Romania, USA


“Between Ceausescu and Fidel” by Radu Polizu – Dictatorship wrapped in the sensuality of Cuba

New Meridian Arts and FlyingMonk Films are proud to announce the launch of a fascinating literary journey through today’s Cuba as discovered by an author and filmmaker who lived his youth in another Communist system, Ceausescu’s Romania, half a world away.

“When I planned to go to Cuba, I never thought even for moment that I would land in a place that resembled the world where I lived as a youth. In my mind, that type of world had vanished and been completely replaced by new heads of the same hydra, as authoritarian and inhumane, and labeled creatively for the new generations.
Probably because of this state of mind, my first contact with Cuba was shocking. Amusingly, Cuba unveiled my forgotten youth in Romania, with the entire repertoire of senseless propaganda based on the same script that had been written in Moscow a century ago, with the same people’s complete dismissal of the authority, and even identical in the long forgotten street sayings, replicated in a world decades apart.
But besides all this, I discovered Cuba as a fabulous live museum, a place where history was forced to halt for a moment and take a long and refreshing breath. The cars, the architecture, the people’s spirit, the lack of Internet and even their antiquated leaders looked like they all crept out from a time that refused to advance, a time that you may find only in the yellowed pages of old newspapers. I also witnessed Cuba waiting feverishly for President Obama’s visit, an unexpected visit for the Cubans but their greatest and only hope in the last 60 years. All these elements compose the effervescent charm of Cuba, a country that lives with fervor and passion in an incredibly uplifting atmosphere that transcends time and space. The phenomenal resilience of Cubans in their will to enjoy life to abandon, with music, dance and rum, in spite of their daily hardships, looking almost like a rebellion against their oppressive and inept government, form the core of all the stories I have written in this book.”

Radu Polizu aka FlyingMonk

The book is available on Amazon, (click here) or on (click here)

A first reading from the book will happen on May 1 at 7:00 PM at KGB Bar in East Village – 85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, USA (map)

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Posted by on April 24, 2018 in Blog, Cuba, Romania




Fidel and Ceausescu

When traveling in Cuba you see few of Fidel’s pictures, except some dusted posters that somehow defy time or billboards that  encourage the technical development passed in front by horse drawn carriages. The pictures and slogans look to be the realm of the dead heroes, mostly dedicated to Che Guevara who is the symbol of “The Revolution”, their revolution of stale ideas and principles taken from history books covered in Caribbean mildew of the last 50 years ago. Che is the spirit and the romance, the courage and the boldness, the spirit of justice, all encompassed in the slogan  “Let’s be all like Che”. In comparison with the romantic, (and the extremely dogmatic and murderous) Che, Fidel was the incarnation of the bureaucracy of the revolution, the one who had to deliver the undeliverable, the one who had to make it happen but whose resilience and longevity in face of the isolation and numerous assassination attempts got accolades even from his enemies. However while you walk the streets of Havana or other cities of Cuba the failure of the revolutionary project is obvious in the mind of the people you encounter who are not shy to tell you want they think. I lived under a similar regime, during Ceausescu’s Romania, and I felt so close to these people and their life experience and I thought of gathering all their stories in a book. Here are several passages.

““What do you think? That we will do the same in Cuba like you did to Ceausescu in Romania?” My friend was startled. The official’s berating came out of the blue, nothing that she said calling for it; just because he heard that she was caring a Romanian passport. She was in a tour organized by Harvard in Cuba during an MBA program, just several years after the special period ended; time of starvation and suffering; time of forced changes and uncertainty. Many times I thought that the brief execution of the Romanian dictator gave chills on the spine to many like him. They shared a dream that they could not deliver and became a nightmare for all who lived it. But they were stubborn and did not want to change it. In their villas, closed circuit stores, vacation chalets, surrounded by their sycophants everything was fine; the social experiment was successful even if it may encounter some hurdles on the way. Yes, of course, people may suffer and die in the process but nothing ever could be done without sacrifices; always the others’ sacrifices.”
“The priest was sitting on the bench waiting to give benediction to children and adults before the mass. I went and sat near him on the bench and asked him a question about the relationship between the Catholic Church and Santeria…The discussion changed course and it took me completely by surprise.

“…Everybody is welcomed to the church and we expect the entire village to come. No matter what cult they practice, no matter that they are Marxists, atheistic, white, black, mulato, they all should congregate in the church because this is heart of their pueblo. This is of utmost importance to have people return to the church”.

But how the Communist state sees the church influence? Do they help in any way?

“Actually not only that they do not help but they boycott it as much as they can. They never ever helped. What happened in the last 50 years was barbaric. For 50 continuous years they erased from people’s mind any concept of moral values. For 50 years they brainwashed our children in believing their ideology, their discourses devoid of any worthy ideas. For 50 years they taught the children that 4 X 4 is 16 but they never talked about the value of a human being and what it represents for the society. This degraded the society and rips into its moral structure.”

“But father, the changes are inerrant. The society would change. A younger generation would take over and change things in a foreseeable future”

“We need a major change in the society but don’t be so optimistic about a new generation. The gerontocracy that rules Cuba is terrified of change. They know that a new generation would adapt to the new realities of the world and this is the reason that the ones promoted at higher levels are all old people, rooting from the same stale ideas of the failed revolution. To rule a society you always have to adapt your ideas and the Marxists never had new ideas. You watch TV and there are no ideas just empty slogans that don’t go anywhere.”

“How can you trust a society where the garbage man has the same salary as the doctor? How can make the doctor to study hard and become a very good doctor and help people if he is paid the same. Are the needs of the doctor and the garbage man the same? This is fantasy.”

“And Obama’s visit?”

“Why is your president coming here?; To play ball with the dictator? Hardly any changes would happen; the state will peddle the same platitudes afraid that any change would dis-empower the ruling class. When Gorbachev came here in the middle of Perestroika absolutely nothing happened. He came and went and Cuba did not change a bit. What Obama can do? “….

“But the people can help. They can come with ideas that put pressure and bring some change. Isn’t it?”

“Actually this may not happen, at least for the regular guys. The major problem in Cuba is that people are extremely poor. Their entire life is spent looking for food. For 50 years the Communists transformed a population in food foragers during crisis after crisis. You cannot have any ideas when you run around all day to get food to put on the table for your children. People are like under anesthesia thinking only from one day to another if they can get some money to eat. There are 50 years…”

This “50 years” mantra is like a national obsession. The same “50 years” trumpeted by the Communist as a major achievement I heard it repeated like a curse by so many regular people: ”There are 50 years and I lived all of them under this regime.” told me with chagrin one my hosts in Havana.”
(Excerpts from the book “Between Ceausescu and Fidel” by FlyingMonk)


Antonio Rodriguez Fuster’s mural depicting Fidel, Che and Camillo on the Granma yacht, Jaimanitas, Havana

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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Blog, Cuba


Life in Cuba

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Havana, Cuba

We published a last album of frames from the last shoot in Cuba that tries to capture life as it happens on the streets of the many cities of the island. A life of contrasts, a joyful life of lacks and needs but more alive and present than many lives in the western world. US and Cuba are two faces of the same coins;

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Malecon, Havana, Cuba

if you come from New York you are used with the insane competition that makes the city sizzle. It’s such a natural state of things that you may not even notice it when you live in the Big Apple. As one friend pointed out, even the line ”work hard, play hard” points to the obsession that even when you play or relax you just have to win.


Checking the internet on Parc Fe de valle, Havana, Cuba

This competitive hysteria is completely unknown in Cuba where everybody chills under the watchful eyes of the Communist Party. The dance and music or just sitting and watching the street is the norm and work is happening only as a chore when you really need something to eat and not as a way of living as Americans do. So sit back and relax, have a mojito and be carried away by the flow. When you return and see how New York runs non-stop, you may reconsider your life….


El Rincon, Havana, Cuba

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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Blog, Cuba