Thursday, July 5, 2012

Castro's Cuba

Cuba in two weeks - not enough time to take in the island, but the music, the cars and the people make it unique. I flew down there with my ex-husband, a great guy a generation older than me, who had been to quite a few countries, but he was a pampered, five-star hotel traveler - pools, happy hours, club med, arranged tours - and he couldn't compete with the the savvy of the local sharks. When we arrived at the airport we were given a piece of paper which we had to return upon leaving. 'Don't lose that, Stan,' I said.
'What do you think I am? Stupid?' I didn't answer that question.

We landed at Varadero, which was okay for a night but not the Cuba we wanted to see. After an afternoon swimming and sightseeing, we struck out for Havana.

We got a ride to Havana with these two guys and after looking for a guesthouse that wasn't full, we were recommended a room in a middle-aged couple's house one block from the promenade. It was wonderful, too, in that the wife was a great cook and it was just like being part of a family. Many friends and family members dropped by who gave us advice as to where to go. Her nephew came over one night and told us he'd take us to the Havana Cafe, which has to be one of the most memorable nights I've ever had in my life. There were two cars from the fifties in the place and a plane from World War II hung from the ceiling. The music rocked Cuban style and they had a fabulous floor show with sexy girls. I've never seen dancing like I saw that night, the Cubans just know how to rock!



Al Capone's house in Cuba (now a restaurant)

We arrived at the airport tired and happy after Cuba - its music, its throwback to the fifties, its unique culture and white beaches - and lined up to go through customs. The immigration officer looked at my passport and my identity paper that had been given to me when I arrived and passed me through the line. Stan got his passport out and opened it, and then rifled through it. And then rifled through it again.
'Where's the paper I got?' he said.
'You can't find it?'
'Dammit, it's gotta be here somewheres.'
'You can't leave without it.'
He was told to stand aside while he went through his wallet and after combing through it and finding nothing he dove into his rucksack, tearing it apart as he looked for his entry paper. I yelled over that I'd be waiting at the departure gate and left. He looked up at me and I could see the fear on his face. 'I hope you get through,' I said. I went and sat down and half an hour later and just before we boarded he came rushing towards me, sweat pouring down his face and neck.
'Gosh, those guys just put me through the wringer, I thought they were going to bring me to jail and I'd miss the plane.'
'They were probably kidding, you're too old to put in jail.'
'Were you gonna leave without me?'
'That question is also better left unanswered.'