86. A VISIONARY ARTIST: I kept meeting and talking to Eugenio Perez Estrada at Palatino's, where he and another artist sketch tourists and sell them the sketches. I have my own cartoon portraits from '00, '01, and '02 (and '04 and '05; the drawing above is from '04).
But Eugenio, an uncommonly tall Cuban who wears hats and whom I always imagine with a turban, is a serious artist and a specialist in eyes. He showed me his work in the museum next door, where I flirted with an attendant with a Russian name whom Eugenio thought might be the woman for me.
He lived on a homely street in the northwest quarter, upstairs, in a narrow flat with a balcony, which was his studio. The floors were worn but proud old tile; the furniture was old but solid and included a large table big enough for 6 diners or a philosophers' conference.
The place was large for two but cramped for him, his wife, and two grown daughters with boyfriends always around, plus, of course, his friends. I talked there with a boyfriend who was a scientist about powering cars with vegetable oil, and about Eduardo Galleano with a professor of German just back from doing research in Africa.
The current painting on the balcony featured a campesino and two fighting cocks whose eyes formed a dramatic triangle. I was more impressed by a collection of American Indian masks he had enhanced with realistic faces.
After I explained Hemingway's theory of finding a story by editing away excess from around it, Eugenio told me that signing the petition was a chip off a marble block inside which resides the beautiful communist future of Cuba.