Sunday, April 1, 2007

The switch

Everybody knows, or should know by now, that Cuba is a car crazed nation.
Without the imports of regular stock cars, and much less, the import of exotics, Cuban mechanics and customizers do a great job building and rebuilding cars out of nothing. By nothing I mean old parts, cleaned of rust with a rag and gasoline, and custom made parts which are made in backyards and kitchens, and used parts pilfered from cars used by the government. There are people who make a living out of erasing serial numbers and engraving new ones of your liking.
Some other people did marvels, like adapting a ghetto-blaster to work inside a regular dashboard of a '50s yank tank, concealing it behind the radio, so to put a cassette in -this was before CDs- you had to insert it vertically behind the edge of the dashboard.
One of them was the Electroloco, from Avenida de Acosta, just in the section of the avenue when the neighborhood becomes Lawton. The gentleman passed away, but the legend is alive. One of these days I will start a series of illustrations honoring these guys, for y'all to download to your heart content and print T-shirts with them. Those are the real heros of the "revolution" -which is different from the robolution.
"You've gotta make a revolution to live under *this* robolution" as one of my grandfathers use to put it.
Back to the title -the switch.
I had an old 1953 Ford. Huge thing. It ran very well, thanks to the incredible amount of adaptations, changes, repairs, alterations, and metric and imperial bolts, pieces of washing machine hoses, plastic bottles, coathanger wires, and all sort of foreing elements which coexisted in not such a peaceful environment under her hood. Yeah, I know. I am refering to the car as "she" and "her". Just like mariners refer to their vessels as "she" or "her".
I used to get stopped by the cops for late night speeding on Malecon. Time after time, I would get slapped with a ridiculously low speeding ticket. Until the day that I had the epiphany that the Electroloco could help me to install the switch.
It was a simple Ostereizer switch, as you already guessed, gotten from an old blender. The on an off thingy. As one says in Habanero, un chucho.
Well the Electroloco installed it in just by the radio, and it controlled the brake lights. Illegal? you bet.... but I was living under kasstro, which should be also illegal and apparently it's not considered that way in Capitol Hill, DC.
At this point, I know that y'all can picture me in one of my late night cruises in Malecon looking for a police cruiser to test the switch. The Ford was painted in a generic matte gray color -ugly but anonymous, since a bunch of people had that color in Havana, navy paint anyone? diez pesos la lata!- and I had changed my license plate by transforming a C into a G, a 1 into an L and a 3 into an 8 with strategically placed pieces of electrical tape.
Right around the Riviera Hotel I saw one cop inside a Lada cruiser, and another one walking to the car. I just took Paseo up for one block and circled the hotel, turned off the lights, in order to bait the cops and screeched my tires as bat out of hell. They bit.
They came out screeching their tires too, in their souped up Lada for which evidently my gas guzzling souped up Ford was a force to be reckoned with.
I turned on the lights, and started speeding kind of making the Malecon slight curves straight. They were already tailgating me flashing the "blue eyes" (did you know that the cruisers were called in Habanero la putica de ojos azules, because "she" would blink her "blue eyes" before catching you?)
I suddenly put the switch on the "on" position, and footed the car to the metal.
The cop must have stepped with all his weight on the brakes to avoid what seemed to him an unevitable collision.
The cruiser made a few 360's in the wet surface of the Malecon and I was already going up 23 Street, from the Hotel Nacional towards Coppelia, with an amused friend on the passenger seat.
I know that y'all are looking now at this screen and it looks like my Ford's rear view mirror, and that you're listening to the mix in my tape deck, which was playing "born to be wild" (Steppen Wolf) the whole time the episode lasted.
Time to go to 23 and 12, to the cemetery of Colon and take some eery black and white photos with torchs and a flash....