Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Briana Libre - The Cuba Edition

I'm on my way.

It's the middle of the night, balmy, and I can't sleep.

I leave for the airport in 2 short hours and head to a country I've been fantasizing about for over a decade.

I've read every book I could get my hands on detailing everything from the socialist arts programs that fund things like the ballet to the boarding school that, at one time, housed both Fidel Castro and Desi Arnez. I've watched movies, eaten food, had a failed attempt to make my way there which resulted in my lone impromptu trip to Mexico during swine flu season and even had a clandestine affair with a man who sang me love songs from his homeland while working as a carpenter in London many, many moons again.


That tiny country off the coast of Florida yet a million miles away.

The Alamo to my Herman.

And now, that the day is here and the adventure upon me I am utterly... indifferent.

Sure it could be my travel snobbery kicking in and some luster being lost now that Obama aided in making Havana the hottest weekend getaway for a wide breadth of New Yorker. But I think it's more than that.

I think it's that when life has been scooped out of you like a heaping serving of mint chip ice cream even those things that should excite, please and titillate you so often fall flat.

Luckily, my apathy rarely stops me from moving forward and so, Havana here I come. Please bring me more than additional freckles on my face and sweaty chaffing on my thighs.

With no sleep the airport is easily navigated and gregarious airport workers seem to have arrived for the job in droves.

Passenger Christopher Frederick is paged over and over again. And just the sound of His name sends shivers down my spine and nails deep into my heart.

Then flight 1295 to Los Angeles announces it is boarding and the circle is complete. No matter where in the world I am. No matter in what I am engaged - there is always a flight boarding for Los Angeles and I always want to get on it.

As destinations are rambled off over the intercom I feel like I'm trapped in a tragic version of this is your life and I'm dying for a commercial break.

The flight to Havana is smooth, or so I assume as I was knocked out in my premier member automatic upgrade seat for the 3.5 hours during which I soared over the Caribbean Sea.

The sleep was so deep I almost forgave the wretched flight attendant who's disregard for passengers and distaste for the friendly skies was so apparent, it was palpable.

After disembarking I made a left at the burros and succinctly moved through immigration and customs to arrive at Cuba Car, where I had reserved an economy car in hopes of covering more ground in the meager allotment of time I had on this island.

As we entered the shallow foyer the 'El Monty Python' episode was already well under way with 4 doors, 2 sets of 2, facing one another and seemingly dumb, deaf and blind employees exchanging one closed office door for the next on a rotating schedule with no real evident purpose or meaning and most certainly no acknowledgement of the throngs of waiting Latinos – me included!

Finally a friendly Cuban girl by way of Las Vegas suggested just going in, uninvited, and so I did. I was greeted by a total lack or reaction or interest in my presence. Luckily our minimal interaction resulted in minimal assistance and we stood in terminal 2 for over an hour while being given a litany of reasons as to what we were to do and when to expect the car conundrum to be resolved.

Around the 90 minute mark we were escorted to terminal 3 where a jovial man in a small box informed me that since I had failed to bring my driver’s license to Havana (did I mention I packed after a 20 hour day) we would not be permitted to leave with a vehicle and because life is just never that simple we were also informed that the reservation could in no way be transferred to my travel mate's name.

Small detail.

I fucked up (in sort of a big way).

Moving on.

Limited cash and hours without sustenance my forgiving travel homie and I hopped in an overpriced cab, equipped with large billed euros and headed for Casa Ivis, our humble abode for the evening.

Upon our arrival, Juan warmly greeted us at the door and excitedly described what I can only imagine were the amenities in rapid fire Spanish and, shortly thereafter we were deposited into room 1 and utilizing wifi whilst perched upon the iron wrought veranda.

After a brief respite we climbed down the stairs and took to the streets. Not knowing where exactly we were or where exactly we were headed we took to the war torn Kelly Moore coated streets and meandered blocks and blocks of restaurant and bar-less residential thoroughfares hoping, I think in equal parts, to find reprieve from the stickiness hanging tough in the air and a place to fill our bellies on our increasingly limited budget.

One of my first observations - the streets of Havana are literally filled with American flags. Old ladies wearing spandexed red white and blue over their ample behinds, grown men sporting tank tops with stars and stripes nicely offsetting their biceped arms and toddlers in trainers waddling around declaring their love for my country around every bend. It was crazy and noticing it only made you notice it more. I thought to myself if I wore my own USA leggings that I proudly sported for a previous patriotic Christmas card maybe, just maybe, people would think I was Cuban too!

Hangriness setting in two neon signs revealed themselves and the latter was chosen. The Lotus Flower seemed like an ironic choice in Latin America but the ac was blasting and the menu was plentiful.

A shared appetizer and exotic cola beverage I've never seen before nicely offset the gargantuan portion of arroz con pollo upon which we both feasted along with a huge helping of maduros. Needless to say - yum.

Some minor currency issues, reminding us how desperately we would need to get to the bank in the morning, and we were back on the dusty streets filled with beautiful children, friendly men, and ancient cars proving that the disposable world in which we all live in now - where H&M offers quick fashion cheap enough to toss last season’s find, Apple comes out with a new product annually, immediately making those you previously owned obsolete, and apps like Tinder give you a smorgasbord of smashing options so if your bitch gets too intense, drop her - is a sad sad world indeed.

A strolll down the the malecon offered a candy colored sunset along the sea wall and a nice fisherman asked me to be his girlfriend - so I'd say it was a win all around.

With plans changing due to my idiocy in forgetting my driver’s license it was back to Casa Ivis to try to get on some wifi to make some moves. Though, with Internet only available during certain hours the streets were flanked with young lovers and boisterous families all enjoying sitting within close proximity to one another - but a million miles away, typing away on their respective devices. Ignoring one another and rendering it impossible for me to book a room or move a reservation. Oh well, when all else fails, go to bed. After all, tomorrow is another day - right Scarlett?

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