Chapter 2 – Go to what you Know
Illustration- Nacionale entry- Ermitas Blanco
Shot number three of Bacardi is even better than shots one and two, and the trio begins to feel loose enough to consider the fact that somehow, along the Malecon, that freak, giant wave has transported them back to .
Pablo and Finn look around the veranda, feeling like they’re in some crazy dream. Because there’s Edith Piaf in the corner, drinking coffee. Over there, Bogart and Bacall are quietly canoodling. A small string orchestra pauses, as the MC announces that a special guest has agreed to sing “The Sea and the Sand” for one of the celebrities in the audience celebrating a birthday. At that moment, Nat King Cole steps up to the microphone. It’s a sublime five minutes, and if Finn and Pablo have doubts that they’re actually in the 1950s, they’re melting quickly.
Nina returns, only to announce that her room key doesn’t work. Not even close. There’s nothing but an old-fashioned keyhole in the door. When she brought it up to the manager, he didn’t even have their names on the ledger. So they don’t have a room. They don’t have cash. They haven’t eaten, and they’re drunk in Havana. Possibly in .
Just then an old-school press-man approaches with a pencil and spiral notepad: literally, a guy with a Panama hat with a card in it that reads “PRESS.” Who does that anymore? He asks Nina if she was the photographer who got the shot of Sinatra with the “bad girls.” He works for an American tabloid, Frank was not supposed to be in Havana, and this would be a big scoop. But no one has proof, since he’s been locked up in the penthouse under the surname “Jack El Cuchillo.”
She shows him all of her photos. He’s as flabbergasted with her camera as with the pictures, offering her [$500] cash now for the lot of them. That doesn’t seem like much, until she looks at the drink menu on the table: “Bacardi shots, $.05.”
What the F*ck. They sure as hell needed the cash. “I’ll take it.” She prints the pictures on a personal printer she has with her (again, to the PressMan’s amazement).
Over more rum, they size up their situation. Everything they’d experienced in the past six hours says they’d been transported back to the mid-50’s. Cars. Clothes. The price of Bacardi. Sinatra. Bogart. The Havana Telegraph. The keyhole. Aside from what Nina had just collected, they had no cash. They had Pablo’s car and knowledge of Havana, albeit with some gaps since 1957.
Pablo reached into his jacket pocket to be sure he still had his keys. As he grabbed them, he felt something else, something ceramic and metal about the size of a penny, with a piece of tape so small that he almost dismissed it.
He put both the keys and the object on the table. Finn asked, “What’s this, some kind of fuse or something? I’m no expert, but my dad was a mechanic and fixed cars from the 50’s and it looks like a fuse. Where’d you get it, Pablo?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen it before. The last time i reached into my pocket was to drop my key in there when we were out front… and then that guy tripped into me.”
“What’s the writing on the tape?,” Nina asked. “It says ‘Club Trop, 11pm, Table 5’… what’s that supposed to mean?”
Since Pablo was an accomplished professor of architecture who just doubled as a tour guide, he jumped in with his encyclopedic knowledge of Havana: the Club Tropicana was an iconic club in the suburb of Marianao. Led by maverick choreographer Roderico “Rodney” Neyra, designed by architect Max Borges-Recio with furniture by Charles Eames the Tropicana was an architectural showpiece. The Arcos de Cristal, with its parabolic concrete arches and glass walls spanned an indoor stage, with giant fruit trees, and 1,700 customers packed in nightly.
Nina and Finn recalled the video from the plane and the “Trop Special” Wiki page. Loads of tourists had come in from Miami each night on the “Special,” hammered, flush with cash, and looking for a good time. Nina and Finn finished each other’s sentences, recalling the video from their flight down earlier in the day… sort of.
So “Table 5” must refer to the high rollers table at the Trop where they play poker, ply the guests with food and liquor, and, as they say, “shear the sheep. “
“OK, level set guys,” said Finn. “We’re back in . One of us has a car. One of us just made some cash selling a picture of Sinatra. And one of us paid for Prep School playing poker. The Trop has food, booze, music, poker, and plenty of sheep. So what are we waiting for? What the f*ck!”
Prefer the whole Book One? Here is the Table of Contents, with links.