In 1995, I was the paralegal supervisor for a very white shoe law firm in NYC. One day in spring that year I was informed by the managing partner that a foreign credentialed attorney was coming to work for the firm. Being that the attorney was non-admitted to the bar in NYC, he was being assigned to work with me. I was instructed to bring him up to speed, train him, on the courts, procedures, various desks and county clerks offices, judges chambers, departments et, around the many legal offices of the city.
Soon enough we became friends, lunched together often, went out after work and believe we did do a Yankee game together once. I came to know about his ex-wife, marital problems, his children that were attending Princeton and Yale. Ok. ? I did meet and dine with both he and his daughter when she was visiting once, and became very fond of her. It was a moment for me to learn some years later when he broke the news in a phone conversation that she married, and then apologized. He had mentioned to me at dinner the night of daughter visiting with her girlfriend, that his daughter’s girlfriend was the “daughter” of the president of Venezuela. Curious, I thought. And Bob had long been a teetotaler, so it wasn’t wine talk, but I was on wine talk lane and my preoccupation with family conversation and so forth, that mention didn’t tick my curiosity or interest, but I did hear it, and remembered it “years” later. I was being entertained and who care’s who’s who in such great company.
After I completed the position at that law firm, we remained friends and would hang out together every now and then, and catch up. I became friends with his songwriter nephew Walter Salas-Humara of “The Silos,” the predominant songwriter force in that band. Walter and I spoke on occasion back in the late 90’s, as I was trying to hustle up some sideman work.
In 2000, I relocated, again, back to southern California. It was during the time of the “Elian Gonzalez” custody fiasco in Florida, and AG Reno attempt to return the boy to his father.
During that time, MSNBC and CNN, among many others, were substantially covering the Elian story that eventually led to the clamp down, seizure and Elian’s return to Cuba. The network news channels were interviewing many public figures with regard to that matter in Miami and one of them happened to be the daughter of Fidel Castro, Alina Fernández Revuelta. While after hearing an interview with Alina and Chris Mathews on MSNBC, it occurred to me, “I should call Rob!” I’d known he’d been traveling back and forth between Miami and NY to care for his aging mother and other matters having to do with a “library” he was involved with. In time I would come to know what the “library” commitment involved. I was watching an Alina interview when Bob called me back that afternoon. I was in Oceanside at my mother’s home, catching up on the TV news. I asked him in our conversation about the Gonzalez mess, if he was following it, and if he happened to know, having resided in Spain, if he knew “Alina Revuelta?”
“As a matter of fact, John, I do know Alina. She’s a good friend of mine.” I was shocked.
“Really. Really. Do tell,” I said.
What I was about to learn was a game changer, revelation – to say the least. He indicated he had long been a friend of Alina while living in Madrid and mentioned they spoke often. I was fascinated since while I was hearing his comment, I was turning down another of her interviews on the news.
Solemnly, Robs’ voice became, very even and sober.
“There’s something else I need to tell you John, and I hope you don’t fault me for this, but my father was ‘Fulgencio Batista.’ You know, of Cuba.’”
My mindset, focus – that afternoon was in a sub-sync afternoon SoCal mode and I wasn’t sure what I was hearing and whether he was being clear.
“Wait a minute. You’re the son of Fulgencio, that ruled Cuba before Castro,” I asked.
“His first son,” Bob responded.
I paused a few seconds, trying to file this in my brain, what I had just been told. My friend of several years and this incredible disclosure, historical life factor of his past, someone I had known several years, while thoughts and memories converged-merged into one lane with many others in my mind, other things, then many things of the past in this friendship, began to make “perfect” sense. Of course, initially, I was shocked. Wowed. Stunned, about who it was I had been working with those years, and training around the NYC state and federal courts.
Briefly, gently, I leaned in with a curious question about, if he remembered New Years Eve 1958? He didn’t want to discuss that, pause, avoided it, but mentioned we could chat about it sometime back in the city. Not a lot of time to chat since his mother situation was certainly a priority. His mother, Fulgencio Batista’s wife, Marta Fernández Miranda de Batista (1923-2006) Now I understood. I understood. And so much of the fog from way back when and the quandary of years past, lifted.
I thanked him for the chat, catching up, and wished him and mother well. I walked around a good half an hour, thinking, slightly fazed and mom asked if I was ok. I was taking it all in, processing, a lot. I thought about the office we shared, and his prompt arrival daily at exactly 7:30 am, that I hated (jealous), what he use to say, various of his interest he shared and things he pursued around the city. But that moment that day, after that disclosure, it was clearing for me that was long overdue and appreciated.
Yet, I thought, previously, nothing ever really jumped out at me, his full name – Robert Batista. I had no reason to think much of it since it was a common name among Latinos in Spain. Then, I thought about his mention of kids in “Ivy League schools,” and board meetings he often attended, and all his “networking” weekly around Manhattan — did nick my curiosity a bit. I mean, what kind of, I thought then, “networking” was Rob up to? Being new, albeit unlicensed esquire, in from “Spain?” Who could he know? While my “do you know who I am” attitude dance was kicking up I admit, back then. Followed by, realizing the globalization of my networking skills at that juncture in life, unfortunately I suppose, involved advice/suggestions of the best Stan Getz records on Rudy’s jukebox, 44th and 9th, downstairs from where I lived in HK; or else, more often than not, personal music productions I may have been involved back then.