LOCALOGY: Radio Habana Social Club

“La mente es un intrínseco camino que busca la verdad de la Realidad.  

The mind is a labyrinth seeking the truth of reality.”

- Alejandro Urgell Reyes

One evening, during a spirit quest into the unknown, I slipped into a liminal vortex and took an intellectual journey to a dadaist bohemian netherworld of flying toasters, upside down trees, and high-heeled furniture, never to return.  But don’t worry, mom.  I am in the company of nice Cuban artists, and the guitarist plays Gypsy Flamenco songs.  They have prescribed a holistic regimen of sangria to stimulate transcendence.  This initiation ritual is known to induce a surrealistic euphoric sensation known by locals as “Radio Habana Social Club.”

Radio Habana’s owner, Victor Navarrete, is the mastermind behind the whimsical orgy of oddities that envelop this charming fantasia.  Navarrete’s art installation is a visual mindfuck that can only be described as Lewis Carroll meets Peewee Herman’s playhouse with a dash of Willy Wonka’s magical boat ride on its way to the circus.  It’s an impressive sight.  I mean, where else can you find a plastic doll with a revolver for a head and a clown riding on its back?

Victor’s nephew Alejandro impulsively leaps on the counter and begins to dance.  It is his birthday, but here at Radio Habana, every day is everyone’s birthday.

“Every day is your birthday because you are reborn every day,” Alejandro tells me.  “If that doesn’t happen you are not alive.”

Alejandro Urgell Reyes has been dancing for 40 years and studied ballet at the National School of Arts in Havana Cuba.  His dance company recently presented an avant-garde multimedia performance titled “Perfect Imperfection” fusing contemporary experimental ballet, live painting, and techno music.  For a person who says he doesn’t believe in perfection, Alejandro dances exceptionally well.

“I can’t live without dance.  It’s impossible,” he says with a sparkle in his eyes.  “You feel good every day.  When you dance you must be in balance, so in life you will be balanced.  You must be able to listen.”  He pauses.  ”I observe a lot.”

When not observing, painting, dancing, or charming guests at Radio Habana Social Club, Alejandro also plays piano, bass, trumpet, and soccer.

“What DON’T you do?”  I tease.

“I don’t go to wars.  I don’t go to military.  I don’t carry weapons.  I don’t argue with people.  You never win when you argue.”

No argument there.  It is his birthday after all, and mine, and yours.  Regarding that philosophy, he adds:  “You are reborn every time you do something beautiful, do something you like to do, or help somebody.  That’s my truth, I live with that.  I have no religions,” he says.  “I believe in this.”

Engaged in discussion, my friend and I suddenly realize we have lingered nearly an hour past closing.  Fortunately no one here is ruled by time, since we’ll all be reborn tomorrow.   And when that happens, I suggest you go to Radio Habana Social Club, take your time over a locally grown salad or Victor’s homemade sangria, and enjoy the creative intellectual stimulation that awaits you.  It’s a rare place in the western hemisphere where you may even get a hug goodbye, and if you enter with an open mind, I can almost guarantee an evening of memories.

Happy birthday, everyone.

- Kenna Shapiro

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