Cuba is layered. Such a strange, shifty, wonderful, amazing country. From the departure area of the Miami airport (a dilapidated hallway sardined with Spanish-speaking people) to the “bullpen” arrival area of at Josi Marti International Airport outside Havana (a yelling, crying, applauding hoard of hundreds awaiting their long-lost ancestors), Cuba promised to be saucy.
And although there are sooooooo many points of interest I want to list, in this blog, I simply can’t. But what I really need you to know is this:
- Cuba is tremendous. Havana is hypnotic—ancient and fascinating. Cuban beaches are gorgeous—glacial-blue water as warm as grandma’s kisses. The people are sweet. Friendly. Fun. Kind. Cuba is everything you’d want a country to be, but with a dollop of surprise. From what I saw, I was sold. Oh and get this, there’s almost no crime rate—for now. I walked the streets at night, freer of stress than I’ve ever been. Si. Verdad.
- It’s always time for naughty Halloween costumes in Havana. I’m almost 100% positive the government issues fishnet pantyhose to female employees. In the airport. On the street. Around government buildings. All the ladies wore the same, sexy, uniform. Tailored shirts tucked into khaki mini skirts, paired with black, fishnet pantyhose. Growl. My friend Sean and I even met a woman who said she saw a nurse in a short white dress, triangular nurse’s cap, white fishnet pantyhose, and heels. I bet a lot of guys are sick in Cuba.
- “The Government wants all your milk,” said our Cuban driver, Angel. Sean and I had spent a few days in Varadero—the popular beach resort area of Cuba. On the way back to Havana, I’d been hit with a terrible cake craving, and I couldn’t quit talking about it. Cake. I wanted cake. So badly. Serendipitously, a man popped up in the ditch holding a platter stacked with cake. We zoomed by—the Cuban wilderness sprawling outside our windows. And around the next jungle bend, another man with a cake platter. He was squatting by a Kapok tree. Another curve. Another cake man. It was cake paradise. “Angel, is that cake?” I asked, pointing and salivating. “No, es queso—illegal,” Angel answered. Cheese. Illegal cheese. Angel explained that the government expects all cows, even privately owned, to produce milk for only the government. So, if you keep any milk for yourself to drink, or to make a cake (I wish), or to make . . . let’s say . . . cheese—you’re being a very bad socialist. The government wants all your milk. Oh, and supposedly you get more time in prison for killing a cow than a person. How about for killing a cake? Which I did, as soon as we got back to Havana. Murdered that son of a bitch.
- The ice cream boy on the street spoke four languages. True. He was charming, albeit obsessed with the Kardashians. Sean and I questioned him for fifteen minutes while he hustled halved coconuts filled with peach cream to passing tourists. “Girl, chew know Ah-mare-ee-kaw is so fabulous! I tink I’d loov it,” he laughed and fluffed his hair. And I think he would, because he’d have his pick of jobs. I doubt he’d choose ice cream vendor. Maybe clothing designer or sassy translator. I asked how he learned so many languages. “University of course,” he answered with an eye roll. “Ahhhh, that’s right. I forgot your college is free,” I said. He rolled his eyes again, more dramatic this time. “Oh we pay, dar-leen. We pay wit our freedom,” he quipped, and went back to hustling his coconuts. Ouch.
- You must go now. It’s totally legal for Americans. It’s totally Cuba, for now. It won’t be for long. I suspect it will soon be more of a Cancun, Key West, or Weekend at Bernie’s. We were labeled the “first wave” Americans. So get in where you fit in—among the cigar smoke, antique cars, live Reggaeton, dirty dancing, colonial architecture, 50’s lounge scene, and of course . . . fishnet pantyhose.
Sounds like my next destination!