A Young Man’s Strange Erotic Journey Around the Globe
So, first things first, I really had no business going on this trip. I mean, yeah, I’d only planned it to be for eight days, but even so…like, the second half of October is always an extremely busy time during which I’m trying to wrap up all my window washing jobs for the season. That said, lately I’ve been feeling older and am constantly worried about the future. I don’t have any health benefits, I don’t own any property, I’m not saving up enough money for my retirement, I don’t have any special skills, and most importantly…how am I going to be able to take care of my mom when she’s older if I’m a loser only making $30k a year? Like…I’m a fucking worthless piece of shit, ya know what I mean? I’m no good to nobody. So, I feel like I gotta go back to school or somehow find a job where I can make a lot more money and I gotta do it within the next couple years before it’s too late. But even though I feel like I gotta make these changes, there are still a bunch of places that I’ve always wanted to visit that I know I won’t have time to visit if I settle down and get a more serious career. So I feel all this pressure to hurry up and keep traveling, keep crossing places off my bucket list so I can finally turn into the responsible adult that I feel (either real or imagined) everyone expects me to be. Cuba was one of those places that I’d wanted to go to for a long time but had just never gotten around to visiting. Since it’s relatively close and logistically easy to get to compared to some of the places in bumblefuck Asia or middle-of-nowhere Africa that I’d still like to visit, I figured I’d squeeze it in. As of the day I left for this trip, I hadn’t taken a day off work in probably a month. And since I’d been working from sunup to sundown every day, I didn’t have any time or energy to do any planning of this trip myself, so I contacted a company called Cubania, told ‘em that I like hiking and asked ‘em to come up with some sort of itinerary where I could get out into nature and do some exploring. What they came up with was a week jam-packed with activities and car rides from one place to another. There was literally no time to relax on this trip. And given how burnt-out I was from work – and from life in general – this was pretty much the last thing I needed.
Day 1: Arrival to Havana
Due to the embargo the US has in place against Cuba, with one or two rare exceptions, US-issued credit and debit cards are not usable in Cuba. You can’t pay for shit using your card in stores or restaurants or hotels or whatever and you can’t take money out of the ATMs there. All the money you think you’ll need for the trip, you gotta bring with you in cash. In addition to that frustration, the UK-based representative from Cubania with whom I’d been in contact told me that US dollars are no good in Cuba, that it was better to bring Euros there to exchange for Cuban pesos. So, before going, I went to my bank and exchanged $250USD for its equivalent in Euros (small bills only – fives and tens) and probably lost about fifteen dollars in the transaction due to a shitty exchange rate. Of course when I got to Cuba, on the ground there people said that US dollars are completely fine to exchange as long as you exchange them anywhere but official government banks where the rate was like 1USD=26 Cuban Pesos. In reality, in hotels, restaurants or on the street, you can and should get anywhere between 120 and 170 pesos per dollar. Also, since I’d paid for this ridiculously expensive tour that cost like $2400 for the 8 days I was there, I figured my $250-worth of Euros would be plenty to get me through the week, but it turns out that everything in Cuba is quite expensive and when I’m handing out 15-20 Euros in tips each day, it went too fast and I ended up running out of money before the trip was over.
Another issue that arises due to the current embargo the US government has in place against Cuba is that it’s technically illegal to visit the country as a tourist. That said, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses for 12 categories of travel. The 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba are: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and certain authorized export transactions. While checking in with American Airlines at O’Hare International here in Chicago on the morning I was leaving, I had to declare one of the above as my official reason for traveling to Cuba. Before going, I read that choosing “Support for the Cuban” people was the easiest to justify, so that’s what I went with. When I was returning to the US a week later, an immigration officer asked me what charitable acts I’d done for the Cuban people while down on the island. I said I did my best to eat in family-owned restaurants known as paladares, to stay in privately-owned lodging known as casas particulares and that I gave out good tips to all my drivers and guides throughout the trip. The guy just shrugged and handed me back my passport and that was the end of it.
There were no direct flights from Chicago to Havana. First I had to fly Chicago to Miami where I had a layover of about four hours and then after that the flight from Miami to Havana is just under an hour. I knew at some point I was going to have to obtain a visa to visit Cuba but figured it’d be purchased from immigration at the airport in Havana. That said, while waiting at the gate to board the plane in Miami, I was very surprised when one of the workers at the American Airlines desk called my name and told me to come over. After walking over there, the AA employee asked if I had a visa for Cuba. I told her that I did not. She said, “Okay, that’ll be a hundred dollars.” And I gave her my credit card and she gave me the visa shown here in the photo. It was quite strange. Never in the twelve years I’ve been traveling have I seen a visa for a foreign country be issued by a US-based airline employee.
The rum of Cuba. Heading towards immigration in the airport. I entered the country with no desire to drink but by the end of the week would be so mentally worn down that I couldn’t resist the desire to escape reality and get blackout shitfaced the way I habitually used to do as a younger man
My first order of business after going through immigration was to find a bathroom and take a piss. Standing outside the men’s room was a woman who appeared to be the one in charge of cleaning the facilities. I saw she had a little basket or something and was collecting donations from whoever was going in and out of the restroom. The smallest bill I had on me was a 5 Euro note and that was just an unreasonable amount to tip for taking a leak. So as I came out of the bathroom I dug in my little Jansport carryon and pulled out a stack of Post-it notes and tipped her with that. She seemed more confused than disappointed which was good enough for me and I walked away to go retrieve my checked luggage
All those rectangular black things atop the luggage machine are pieces broken off the side of the conveyor belt. See the following photo for clarification…
This is what I’m talking about. The sides are broken off and these fucking gears are exposed and…
…of course my goddamn bag gets tangled up in the gears and I gotta wait for the belt to go around five or six times before it finally stops and this airline employee can get it off for me. After a minute or two of fidgeting around, he decided the only way to get my bag detached from the gears was by standing up and yanking it as hard as he could. Naturally, the strap on my bag was destroyed in the process. I got the feeling that the airport employee wanted a tip for having done this. Sorry guy, no Post-its for you
Me reviewing the useless broken strap as I stood outside the airport waiting for my driver to pull his taxi up
One of the impossible-not-to-notice things during the drive from Jose Martí International to Havana proper was these enormous stretches of cars lining the sides of the road. I asked my driver what that was all about and he said that…
…”That’s the line for people to purchase petrol. You usually have to wait 3-4 hours to be able to fill up your car.”
“Like the virus, the US blockade isolates.” In the areas that I visited, I feel like the area around Cienfuegos is where I saw the most anti-US billboard propaganda type stuff. I took photos of all of them, but as I’ll later reveal, I got wasted and either lost or had my phone stolen from me and those photos didn’t have time to upload to the cloud before my cell went MIA
When I got to the place I’d be staying in Havana – a place called Casa Azul – I was met by a representative from Cubania. He handed me this stack of vouchers and explained to me that I’d have to keep track of them all and hand them out to different guides I’d be hiking with and to people at different guesthouses I’d be staying at and at the restaurants where I’d be eating. Honestly it was kind of stressful but I guess that’s just the way business is done in Communist Cuba
I got to Havana on a Saturday. Since no one has money to go out to bars and shit like that, the popular thing for locals to do seemed to be just buying a bottle of rum and posting up on this miles-long walkway along the ocean known as the malecón. As I was wandering through the area, I was approached by several “jineteras” who were more than willing to go home with me for anywhere between $50-100USD. Since I had limited funds and was struggling with anxiety, I just kept on walking. At one point a couple who’d been drinking invited me to sit down with them. The dude was a lot drunker than the woman. Soon after, another couple joined them. They kept offering me swigs of their rum, but I didn’t want any. The drunk guy seemed to take personal offense to this. At some point in the conversation, he’d said he had kids. I reached into my bag and pulled out a highlighter and offered it to him a gift to pass on to them. Unlike the bathroom attendant at the airport, this man was delighted by the gift. We shook hands, I excused myself and kept wandering around
I feel like Cuba in general is a remarkably safe place as far as violent crime is concerned. Never once walking around at night here in Havana or in Viñales or in Trinidad did I feel physically threatened as I sometimes did while living in the La Candelaria area of Bogotá for example or, shit, even as intimidated as I feel walking around a lot of different areas of Chicago once the sun has set. That said, there are grifters of every kind all over the touristy part of Old Havana who’d love to wring you for all you’re worth. And this one guy – I can’t remember his name (as I think back, I unfortunately can’t remember the names of more than half the people I interacted with in Cuba though I can clearly recall conversations we had) – just wouldn’t leave me alone. He wanted to show me where to eat. “This restaurant’s the best.” He wanted to show me where the fiesta was at. “There’s a big reggae party tonight en Centro Habana.” “You like the Cuban women? How bout a nice mulata?” He wanted to show me where the pussy was at. Here we are in the courtyard of some home where a bunch of different families live, and instead of climbing the stairs up to the third floor where this woman lived who’d supposedly fuck me real good for a real good price, this dude just repeatedly yells her name over and over. Other neighbors look out their windows to see what the commotion’s all about, but the desired woman never makes an appearance. I tell him I’m good and start walking away. I tell him I’m not in the mood for sex anyway, but don’t try to explain that I don’t have enough money because I figured he wouldn’t understand – ya know, me being a foreigner and all and foreigners being synonymous with endless supplies of money. So he doesn’t leave it at that and continues to follow me. He insists I sit down and order a drink in some shitty little bar while he goes to find someone to fuck me. He orders a mojito or something for me against my will and tells me to pay and then goes over to the only occupied table in the bar where two girls and one guy – all in their early 20s – had been sitting. He tries to be discreet but is clearly asking the two girls if they’re willing to fuck me. They shake their head no. He runs out the door of the bar and comes back 2-3 minutes later with a very beautiful blonde 20-year-old single mother in a skimpy little pink dress. He says she’ll fuck me for eighty bucks. I introduce myself and thank her for her time but explain that there’s been a misunderstanding and that I just want to be by myself tonight. She says she’ll do me for forty. She says she needs the money to feed her kid. I look her up and down. Images of her locking her legs around my head and grinding her tight littles holes all over my face flashed through my mind. “I’m sorry,” I said and excused myself. I told the guy to keep the mojito for himself and to stop following me then got back wandering around Habana Vieja sin rumbo
Guard I saw standing in front of an old military plane when eventually making my way back to Casa Azul
Day 2: Havana to Viñales
Morning in Old Havana
Welcome! Here’s a brief tour of Casa Azul…
Here is a long string attached to the locking device on this door that runs all the way to the top of the staircase so people on the second floor can let guests in
Staircase leading to the rooftop where breakfast is served each morning
View from the top of the spiral staircase
Some room in Casa Azul that I slipped into that was much nicer than the one that they’d stuck me into
View of the building across the street as seen from the room in the previous photo
Chairs in the hallway
Glass on some doors leading to a room labeled “privado”
The cigs belonging to Abdel, the guy who’d be driving me in his taxi from Havana to Viñales. The pack says, “The cigarette burns you inside. Only you can put out that flame.”
Old car parked in front of us where Abdel stopped off to get a breakfast sandwich. I had a photo of Abdel but it didn’t make it onto the cloud before my phone disappeared. It was of him in this baseball cap he was wearing that one of his relatives had gotten him from Colombia. On the front of it, instead of a team logo or something like that, had been the photo of Pablo Escobar’s mugshot. During this ride, he’d explained a lot of Cuban history to me. When leaving Havana, he pointed out a bunch of old hotels/casinos that used to be owned by US/Italian mobsters starting in the 1920s and ending in 1959 with the Cuban Revolution when Fidel Castro closed all the casinos and put an end to mob activity on the island.
During this car ride, Abdel was also the first person introduce me to the concept of “Going to visit the volcanoes in Nicaragua.” These days the most popular route for immigrants from Cuba to enter the United States illegally begins with a flight from Cuba to Nicaragua and the rest of the route is done overland through the rest of Central America and Mexico. To traverse that land route, I think people were saying that the coyotes charge approximately $10k per person. And I asked, why pay the coyotes? Why not just try to make the journey on your own taking buses and hitchhiking or whatever? And I was told that it’s too dangerous on your own and it’s better to go with the coyotes because they know the route and got connections and know exactly who to bribe where to make sure everyone safely gets to where they need to be going. So yeah, that’s that. But anyway, before you can even get to that part of the journey, you first have to get to Nicaragua. And before being let into Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan officials want to know the Cuban people’s reason for coming. Everyone, I was told, says that the reason is tourism. And then the Cuban people are asked, “What type of tourism? Like, specifically, what do you want to see in our country?” And of course I’m sure the Nicaraguans aren’t stupid and know exactly what’s going on, but the Cubans always say that their reason for visiting is to go and see all the beautiful volcanoes. And the Nicaraguans let ’em all in. So when talking in Cuba, if you haven’t seen Juan in a while and ask one of your neighbors where he’s been, they might respond somethin like, “Oh you didn’t hear? Se fue hace un par de semanas pa’ vistar los volcanes.” He left a couple weeks ago to visit the volcanoes, meaning he left to go try and start a new life in the US.
Big group of cyclists, like us, heading west on the Carretera Central
Dear Provincial Laboratory of Animal Health, please cease and desist using our copyrighted material for your crappy little animal hospital.
Regardless of whether or not the tourist ends up buying anything, Abdel said he gets a free cigar every time he brings someone to this tobacco plantation somewhere in Pinar del Río. Given my limited funds, I had no interest in buying cigars, but said I wouldn’t mind making a brief visit to said plantation. I forgot this guy’s name, but he was a nice-enough guy and gave me a thorough explanation of how they make their cigars. It seemed like a long and complicated process. He also said that since I’d be buying directly from the plantation, I could get each of those different types of cigars there laid out on the table for somewhere between $8-10USD which is a fraction of the price when buying from a shop or buying them abroad.
Welcome to Viñales
Dollar towel hanging out to dry. Absolutely no one out in rural Cuba uses gas-powered dryers to dry their clothes after washing them. Everything is always hung out on a line like this to dry out in the sun. And I’m not gonna lie, when walking around town and strolling past a house where there’s some young MILF doing chores around the yard and then glancing over at the laundry line and seeing 2-3 sexy pairs of different colored panties and thongs hanging there, I couldn’t help but imagine the woman wearing those things and getting very turned on. Guess I’m just a perv like that
Villa Los Reyes/Guesthouse Yarelis and Yoan where I’d be spending two nights
Rooftop chill spot a Casa Yarelis y Yoan
Generic Irish Spring soap in the bathroom at the guesthouse. Irish Spring is so pungent that that’s actually what we use at my house to keep pests away. We chop the bars up into little bits and scatter it around the perimeter of the garage and in the crawl space where we keep the firewood because it’s so disgusting that not even mice and raccoons can tolerate it. And to think, that’s what some people actually clean their bodies with!
Yarelis is the woman here wielding the knife. Earlier in the day she asked me what I’d like for dinner. I said, “I dunno, how ’bout some chicken?” And she said, “Chicken okay…but what about pork?” I said, “Yeah, sure, whatever. Pork is fine too.” And she said, “Good, because we just slaughtered a pig about an hour ago.” And I said, “Oh really? That makes sense, because I was hearing a lot of loud pig noises and…” “Oh no,” she started giggling, “that must’ve been when we were killing it.” So, hanging from the hook on the left is a lot of the pig meat and hanging from the hook on the right of the photo is the pig skin. On the table is…who knows. Other various parts of the pig I suppose. And her helper here – who was a nice guy – seems to be looking at me as if he’d like to cut me open and hang my hide from a hook next
A bit later on, the cut-up pieces of pig skin being boiled in oil to make chicharrones
The father of Yarelis showing me the next pig they’re working on fattening up for eventual consumption
There was an issue with one of my vouchers (like, no one from the local travel company knew I was coming that day an was supposed to do a hike) but Yarelis took me into town on the back of her scooter and helped me get everything sorted out. Thank you!
I spent all afternoon with this guy and had a really nice time talking with him but can’t for the life of me remember his name right now. He grew up in this valley and showed me the exact spot – now vacant and overtaken by nature – where his schoolhouse used to be. And here he is showing me a flower that looks like a clitoris
A campesino planting some crops
Other campesinos having a break and enjoying the afternoon
Portrait of one of the two farmers from the photo previous
Chicken pecking at dried-out corn at a farmhouse we’d been hiking past somewhere in Viñales Valley
Coffee beans set out to dry
The red-ripe outer skin of a coffee bean picked fresh off a plant for me to try and/or play around with
Don’t quote me on this, but I think this is a ceiba tree? I dunno
Some of the famous mountain karsts locally known as “mogotes” seen in the distance from a cave carved out of a different mogote
A local hurricane shelter
Lean back and do the rockaway
Another building that didn’t quite salir ileso from the pummeling received by Hurricane Ian only three weeks prior to my visit
Good advice, mamita
Béisbol has been bery bery good to me
Walking back to my guesthouse after the tour in the countryside, I saw this sign at the outskirts of town. It says “Volverán” which means “You (all) will return”
Dead dried-out frog stuck to the wall in the bathroom at the gueshouse
Watching the sunset from the roof of Yarelis y Yoan while…
…my freshly-killed pork dinner had been being prepared for me
Day 3: Viñales
Domingo, my guide for Day 2 around Viñales
The bones of a secadero de tabaco – the place where the tobacco leaves are hung out to dry after being harvested
Ruins of a secadero destroyed by Hurricane Ian
Tree uprooted by the hurricane
Man plowing the field
Plow bros. I’ve been told that they cut the balls off these guys to make them less aggressive and more productive out in the fields
Not the easiest to see here, but the trunk of this tree has pretty much swallowed up the barbed wire that’d been running across it there
Life on the farm
Dominoes. I had some pretty good footage of some dudes getting wasted, blastin music and playin dominoes on the street in Trinidad, but that footage was lost when my phone ended up on the side of a milk carton, so to speak
A horse exhibiting typical water buffalo behavior. I mean, by no means am I a country boy and maybe horses do this sort of thing all the time without me being aware of it, but this was the first time that I’d ever seen a horse just hangin out chillin half-submerged in murky brown water to keep cool
I think these things are where they dump the horses’ food into
Fresh guayaba/guava. Had a pretty good taste, but the seeds are hard as fuck. Like chewing shards of glass
Three weeks after Hurrican Ian, a lot of Viñales was still without power. Though while I was there, people were working constantly to get things back up and running
The t-shirt of a socially conscious individual
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – one of my lifelong goals is to be driving one of these things down the highway while getting a blowjob from a topless woman riding along in my sidecart
Lunch back at Guesthouse Yarelis y Yoan. More pig food. A ham sandwich with a side of chicharrones. The sandwich was good and the chicarrones didn’t have a bad taste but they were a bit hairy, which was kind of off-putting, as the pig skin had not been fully “shaved” before being cooked in oil.
I spent most of the afternoon getting a tour from these two guys around Finca El Olivo which is the farm where they grow all the veggies and make all the dairy products served at El Olivo restaurant in the center of town. The guy on the right is the owner’s son. I believe his name is Osnel Jr and he walked me through the process of how they make the cheese. And I know, I know…I’m a shitty person for forgetting everyone’s names, but the guy on the left had been one of my favorite people that I encountered during my time in Cuba. He and I talked for two straight hours about all kinds of shit. In fact, he was the first of several to inform me that the Cuban people really aren’t that big of fans of President Obama. I found that hard to believe considering he has such a good reputation here in the US as the president that went out of his way to try and once again normalize relations with Cuba. And to that he responded, “Yeah, he visited here and shook some hands and posed for some photos, but what did he actually do? The embargo is still in place. We’re not trading with the US. The only thing he did was get rid of ‘pies secos, pies mojados’ and that really was a slap in the face to the Cuban people.” In short, the policy of “wet foot, dry foot” stated that any Cubans trying to enter the United States illegally that were intercepted by the Coast Guard before they reached land (wet foot) would be immediately sent back to Cuba whereas those who managed to make it to US soil unmolested (dry foot) would be put on the fast track to becoming permanent residents of the US. President Obama did away with this policy, declaring that Cubans trying to enter the US illegally would no longer receive this special treatment, that even if they made it to the US without the Coast Guard catching them, they’d no longer be granted legal status. Many Cubans who dreamed of escaping their lives of poverty under the current regime to go and start a new life in the US, I am told, were absolutely devasted by the news of this change in policy.
So, the “biogas” system you’re looking at here somehow collects all the flammable gases produced by the feces of all the animals on the farm and stores it as fuel to later be used in the making of all their dairy products…if I understood correctly
Little Finca El Olivo sample platter
During the late afternoon when I’d been standing around bullshitting with the two guys at Finca El Olivo, these little swarms of bugs had been coming up and attacking our forearms. The guys called the bugs “jejenes” which I have no idea what that translates to in English, but those fuckers bit the shit outta my forearms leaving me looking like a freakin heroin addict
Right after leaving El Olivo, I walked over to Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso for dinner. El Paraíso (“paradise” in English) is one of those sustainable farming-type places that ya know…do good stuff with the nature and stuff like that.
Old radio inside Restaurante El Paraíso
Big spread of a buncha different vegetables all grown onsite, all of which ended up in my belly
Twilight’s last gleaming as seen from El Paraíso farm/restaurant, located a few kilometers outside of town
When I was walking back into town from El Paraíso, I passed a bar where I saw this group of Dutch people I’d met the day before. They invited me to sit down and have a beer with them. I didn’t much feel like drinking, but I also wasn’t in a hurry to get back to the guesthouse and sit alone in my room by myself, so I decided to sit down with them and hang out for an hour or so. Shown here in the photo at the next table over is a pair of girls who showed up to the bar and took a seat not long after I did. As it turns out, they were also Dutch and our waiter here was very keen to make a pass at them in their own language. So here he is taking notes and reviewing the sexy things that the Dutch folks at my table told him to go over and say to the two Dutch chicks at the other table.
Day 4: Viñales to Las Terrazas
Lobby of the hotel I stayed at in Las Terrazas
Las Terrazas is a village/nature reserve with a population of about 1000 people that was formed out of a 1968 government-planned reforestation project
Pretty big bathroom in my hotel room
View out the bathroom window. Plenty of bushes for peeping toms to hide and jack off at me while I’m in the shower
Complimentary soap and shampoo and…sewing kit?
One-of-a-kind staircase at the hotel in Las Terrazas
My guide Ida using a stick to write our names on a leaf while out on an afternoon hike though the surrounding naturaleza
Looking down on the village
Awesome spot for a nice refreshing swim, which I did…completamente encuerado. And there were a bunch of those little fishes in there that come up and nibble the dead skin off your legs and feet the way they do in those tanks at Asian foot spas
These avocados look like bull testicles. Believe me, I would know
A little plant called mimosa that retracts when touched
Before running my fingers across the leaves
After, now all folded-up on top of itself
Where the honey at?
I think that’s a hibiscus, ain’t it?
Day 5: Las Terrazas to Trinidad
On this day I was due to get picked up first thing in the morning because the ride from Las Terrazas to Trinidad is long as fuck – somethin like 7-8 hours I was told – but the driver ended up being more than an hour late because he had a flat tire. So the guy eventually arrives and it turns out to be Abdel, the same guy who’d driven me from Havana to Viñales a few days beforehand. We hit the road and Abdel tells me that at some point we’re gonna need to get gas if we wanna make it all the way to Trinidad. We try a couple stations along the way but they’re all completely sold out. Abdel is visibly stressed but tells me not to worry, he says we’ll just get gas in Havana. So we get back to Havana about three hours after having left Las Terrazas and here we go and pick up one of Abdel’s friends who needs a ride out towards Trinidad. So we scoop him up and the next thing on the to-do list is to go and get some gas, but we’re interrupted on this mission by a police officer on foot on the side of the road who pulls us over, tells Abdel to get out of the car and to show him a bunch of papers. The officer disapproves of the documents handed to him but his mood quickly changes when Abdel follows that up with handful of Cuban pesos. Palm sufficiently greased, he immediately lets us go. Abdel makes a phone call to his wife who works at a certain gas station and tells her that we’re coming. Ten, fifteen minutes later we arrive to the gas station that has one of the typical 4-hour lines leading up to it. We pull right up to the front of the line, wait for the current customer to finish getting their gas and then back up into the spot next to the pump and get serviced right away as Abdel goes inside to talk to his wife. We fill up and get back on the Carretera Central and stop off somewhere to eat an hour or so later. I’m in a decent mood so I decide to treat the guys to lunch. They had pork, I had shrimp. We finish eating, I pick up the bill and we get back on the road.
(Part 2 of 2) So, we keep driving for a while and eventually, after going through Cienfuegos, we leave the Carretera Central (the main highway that runs east-west across the length of the country) and have an hour or two left to drive on this narrow two-lane highway leading to Trinidad. On this narrow two-lane highway, Abdel and all the other drivers were movin at somewhere around 120kmph which is pretty nerve-racking especially when cars comin at you in the opposite lane are passing only a foot or two away from your vehicle. That said, out in these rural parts, a lot of people can’t afford cars and use the sort of horse and buggy setups shown here in the photo. And at one point maybe a half-an-hour outside of Trinidad, comin towards us in the opposite lane had been a carriage with two guys on it that was being pulled by not one, but two horses. And they say that these carriages should be as far over towards the shoulder of the road as possible, but ya know…many of these rural guys driving these things around do so while hammered and don’t pay attention to what they’re doing and… Anyway, these guys were not riding near the shoulder as they should’ve been. They were right in the middle of the lane. And as we were about to pass each other, at the last second the horse closest our lane got spooked by our taxi flying at them at such a high speed and it veered over into the middle of our lane. And like, I’ve been in many close calls over the years, but in the split second I had to react here, I knew there was no avoiding this collision. Abdel slammed on the brakes and tried to swerve to the right and I closed my eyes and ducked my head down. Little crystals of glass shattered all over my face as we grinded to a halt. I opened my eyes and was surprised to see it wasn’t the windshield, but the driver window that’d been broken. Both Abdel and the other guy were definitely alive and seemingly as disoriented as I was. Certain that I was going to have horrible scars all over my face for the rest of my life, I checked myself out in the rearview mirror and was surprised to see that I wasn’t even bleeding. Following the other guys’ lead, I got out of the car, glanced around and started trying to figure out exactly what’d happed. We deduced that the harness that attaches the cart to the horse – a metal bar that runs along the side of the horse – had come through the driver-side window like a fucking lance in a medieval joust. Had it come through angled a foot or so more towards the center of the car, it would’ve gone right through Abdel’s head. But it didn’t. And he was okay. And his buddy in the backseat was okay. And I was okay. And the guys on the carriage were okay, but pretty pissed off at us because their carriage was destroyed and that one horse we hit might’ve been a bit fucked up. The police soon showed up to sort the matter out and Abdel flagged down a passing taxi. He paid the driver and told him to get me to Trinidad. I gave Abdel a 10-Euro tip, shook his hand and wished him luck. I got in the taxi that unfortunately didn’t have a seatbelt and arrived to Trinidad about a half-hour later where I jumped in the shower and tried to get all the pieces of broken glass off of my skin and out of my hair.
After showering at the guesthouse, I had like an hour and a half to go walk around before the dinner reservations I had at a local restaurant
Sweet ride, bro
When I was walking around Trinidad, a group of three guys called me over and asked me where I was from. I said the US. One of the guys asked me how I like living in the US. I said, “It’s okay, I guess.” He said, “Just okay!? You wanna trade?” And I said, “Pues, depende. Usted va a trabajar todo el tiempo y enviarme remesas pa’ que yo puedo vivir bien aquí en Cuba?” He just smirked and asked if I’d like to have a beer. I politely declined and marched on in search of a good place to watch the sunset.
A quartet jammin out
Very, very difficult to see, but much like Where’s Waldo there’s a guy in a striped red and white shirt hidden up in that tree who is picking and tossing down…I don’t remember. I think they were avocados
When I was watching the scene from the photo previous, this dude came up and was offering me his guiding services for the following day. I politely declined saying that I already had plans lined up. He said he could give me a better price. I said it was too late for that because I’d already paid for this tour and that right now I didn’t want anything more than to just watch the sun set over the water. He told me that for watching the sun set a lot of tourists like to climb up to this radio tower at the top of a hill overlooking town. I said, “Oh yeah?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” So I asked him how to get there and he pointed me in the general direction and that’s where I headed
After watching the sun dip into the ocean I headed back into town to look for the restaurant where I was gonna eat dinner. It was already dark. I kind of felt anxious and isolated and I wasn’t really super hungry, so I just wandered around for a bit. On one of the streets I was walking down I saw these three girls asking some restaurant employee if they serve coffee there. The guy said no. I greeted the girls as I was walking past. They asked me (in Spanish) if I knew where they could get some coffee. I said that, “Yall are the locals, why are you asking me where the coffee is?” And they responded that they’re not from Trinidad but visiting from Cienfuegos. There was a moment of awkward silence. Of the three, one was an Afrocubana and the other two were morenas – one thick with large breasts and the other skinny and a bit weird-looking. The black girl was wearing a rather revealing white dress and I complimented her on it. She thanked me and they asked what I was doing later. I said I was going to eat dinner and then was just probably going to go to bed. They said we should meet up and had me exchange numbers with the skinny girl. We parted ways and I went to dinner.
While at dinner I got a text update with selfies from the girls saying they were at some nearby salsa club. I said I didn’t know whether or not I’d make it over there. I felt super alone but didn’t feel like being around drinking and smoking and dancing, so after dinner I went back to my guesthouse and tried going to sleep. Sleep would not come. In my angsty state I decided to send a provocative photo to the girls. The skinny chick responded well to this and said she’d like to suck my dick really good, but would need a gift of $40 in return. I said, “Fine, come over,” and sent her the name of the guesthouse. She said she wouldn’t be able to find it on her own. I said, “Okay, I’ll meet you outside the salsa club in ten minutes.” She said, “Okay, I’ll be there.” So I walk over there and this girl meets me outside the club and the lighting is better than it had been earlier when I’d first met her on that dark street. And as I’m looking at her more closely, I’m starting to notice some manly features and I say, “Pardon me, are you trans?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Oh, I’m very sorry. I hadn’t noticed until now. It’s nothing personal, but I’m more interested in women who were born with vaginas.” And she said, “Okay, fine. Well, how about one of my amigas, should I send one of them out?” And I said, “Sure, why not.” So she goes back in and a couple minutes later the black girl comes out. She will also do me for forty dollars/Euros. I say, “Let’s go.” She smells like the bar and just before we start walking she lights up a cigarette. I really don’t want anything to do with this person but wanna somehow escape this feeling of loneliness that’d enveloped me. And not only that, but I’d also feel guilty about changing my mind and saying I don’t want to sleep with her because it might make her angry or hurt her feelings. In spite of all this mental back and forth, about two minutes into walking I stop and say, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to do this. Let me walk you back to the bar. I just want to be by myself.” And she’s like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” And I’m just like, “Lo siento. Estoy loco de mierda y es que prefiero estar solo ahora para calmarme la mente.” But she wants the forty bucks because she’s got a daughter in Cienfuegos she needs to feed and won’t take no for an answer. So I resign myself to the situation I’ve gotten myself into. We go back to my guesthouse where I buy her a beer, then we go up to my room where – going through the motions – she sucks my dick, we bang and I pay her the forty Euros. After paying her, I’m quickly gathering all her belongings and handing them to her so she gets dressed faster and I can take a shower and be by myself and try to get 5-6 hours of sleep before going on a hike the following morning. Once she was out the door, I was left feeling considerably more alone than had I not had sex with anyone. The next day she sent me a text saying she’d gladly do me again, this time for a discount price since we’re friends now. I didn’t respond and blocked her number.
Day 6: Trinidad
The next morning a driver named Diego came to pick me up in an old school Russian Lada. He was a nice man and we had a good conversation as he drove me out to the Topes de Collantes nature reserve park where I was supposed to do a guided hike through some jungley shit over to a waterfall. Diego was unaware of this – he thought he was just supposed to drive me around for a few hours and show me some sights. I said that that wasn’t the case. We went to the tourism office in Topes where I presented one of the vouchers I was given at the beginning of the trip. They had no idea I was coming and said they didn’t know whether or not they could arrange a guide for me at such short notice. I asked if the trail to the waterfall was well-marked. They said yes. I said, “Then that’s fine. I won’t need a guide.” And they shrugged and gave me a park entrance permit and that was it. Diego drove me to the trailhead and said it should take me around an hour to the waterfall and an hour to get back. Allowing for an hour of relaxation at the waterfall, he said he’d meet me back at the trailhead three hours later. I said that that worked for me and set off on foot towards my destination. Unfortunately, the photos from this waterfall did not survive, but I had the whole area to myself and took a nice naked swim and felt a1000 times more calm and relaxed and at peace with myself than I had the night before
When I returned to the guesthouse from the hike, a couple of the women who work there asked me if I enjoyed myself. I said I did. I said the nature was lovely and that I had the place all to myself. One of the two ladies said that she knows the hike wasn’t easy and suggested that I could probably use a massage. I said that that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world right now. She said she was a trained masseuse and would give me a massage for $20. I asked where? She said up in my room. Whereas I was interested in the massage in itself, the possibility of getting a hand job from this lady up in my room contributed heavily to my decision to accept her offer. Long story short, it was a pretty shitty massage with no offer of sexual extras at the end. And like…when I was lying face down and she was working on the backs of my legs, she kept pulling on my hair back there and it hurt (not in a good way) and was making me very uncomfortable. Not sure what shitty sort of oil she was using, but I ended up with all these big painful infected hair follicles on the backs of my thighs that wouldn’t end up healing until a few weeks after I’d returned home
That night I hiked back up to the TV tower to watch the sunset. It was one of the best ones I’d ever seen, the way the sunlight was hitting these here clouds. The original photos and videos of this sunset were all lost with my phone. What you’re seeing here is a screenshot from a video I’d shared with my family on whatsapp that I had my sister send back to me once I’d gotten a replacement phone here in Chicago
Day 7: Trinidad to Havana
Returning to Havana, I was really glad to be done being on the highways there. It’s not just because everyone drives crazy and I was in that accident, but also because there’s just something tragic about driving along and seeing so many people on the side of the road with hopeless looks on their faces, holding out fistfuls of worthless Cuban pesos that they’re offering passing drivers to get picked up in hopes of getting to wherever they need to go. I dunno…maybe I’m imagining a sense of despair in this action that wasn’t really there, but that’s the vibe that I’d been getting
Art in the bathroom in my room at Casa Azul
The day I got back I was having lunch outdoors in some plaza near a church at a place called Jaqueline Fumero Cafe. And while I was sitting there, I saw a woman come out onto a nearby third-floor balcony and lower a basket on a rope down to someone on the street who put something in it before she reeled it back up. I’d never seen that done before in real life, only in the movies, and usually in movies showing life in the 1920s or something like that. I thought it was really neat. I took a video, but that too was gone with my phone. Another thing I noticed during this lunch was a nearby art studio called Lanny’s which made me think of another thing I’d never encountered in real life. I’d never heard the name Lanny before except in the show Lizzie McGuire when I was a kid. It was Lizzie’s brother’s friend who was always over – a black kid who never talked but somehow Lizzie’s brother always knew what he was thinking and would always exclaim, “Great idea, Lanny!” after Lanny had telepathically shared his thoughts with him
That afternoon – at a time not specified in the itinerary given me by Cubania – I was supposed to go on a tour around the city in one of those classic 1950s American cars you see in all the photos of Cuba. So, when I got back from lunch I asked the chick in reception at Casa Azul if she knew anything about it. She didn’t. She said, “If someone comes, we’ll knock on your door.” “Okay,” I said, “but what if I’m out walking around when they come?” She shrugged. “Like,” I added, “is there anyone you can call to find out when this guy is coming so I can plan my day around it?” She said there wasn’t anyone she could call. I was very annoyed at how disorganized this tour had turned out to be given how fucking expensive it was, but I just said fuck it and decided to go take a nap. About 3 hours later, I got a knock on the door saying someone was there to pick me up for a tour. It was a guy named Yoel who had a pink Chevy convertible that looked more or less like the one I’ve tried to draw here since I no longer have any photos of it. After I got in the car and as he and I got to talking, Yoel told me that the car was originally his grandfather’s then his father’s and now it was his. The first stop we took on the tour was a big Jesus statue overlooking the city called El Cristo de La Habana. Yoel said I could go explore for a bit while he hung out by the car and I could return whenever I was finished and then we’d go to the next place. The view of the city from the statue was okay, but the real attraction there was this Colombian tourist woman who was wearing these see-through white pants and had nothing but this sleazy little black thong underneath. The whole time there I couldn’t stop staring and when I got back to the car, I asked, “Viste la colombiana entangada?” And he said something like, “Oh yeah, la vi. ESA es una mujer.” And I said, “Yeah dude, let’s get away from her. She’s making me feel a bit too…” “Nervioso?” he asked. And I said, “Nervioso? Porque nervioso? Es lo mismo de cachondo aqui?” And he said yeah, it’s the same. And since we were on the subject of women, I asked Yoel if a lot of foreign men end up marrying Cuban women. He said, yes they do. And I asked, “Are they typically happy together or…does the man end up being a tarrú?” He laughed. “Who’s teaching you all these words!?” “I just pick them up from listening to people,” I said. “That’s good,” he replied. “But yes, the couples can be happy. But the mujer cubana es picantosa, sabes?” And I said, “No I don’t know. What’s picantosa mean? Sensual o algo asi?” And he said, “You have to show her affection and cogerla bien todos los dias or she’ll start looking elsewhere.”
So, after visiting the Jesus statue, my driver Yoel was planning on taking me to all the normal stop-off points of interest that he usually visits on his tours but he got word that the president was doing some public ceremony in the center of Havana or some shit like that and we wouldn’t be able to go to any of the places because the roads were all blocked off. He felt really bad like he didn’t want me to think he was cheating me or something and I told him I didn’t really give a shit at all. I said that wherever he wants to drive to would be fine for me. He suggested a small fishing area of Havana called Cojímar where there was a Spanish fort and a monument dedicated to Hemingway – they say this area had been the inspiration for his novel “The Old Man and the Sea.” I said, “Sure, that works for me,” and then asked what sort of reputation Hemingway had among the Cuban people. “Like, did the people respect him or did they think of him as just some random alcoholic gringo loser?” He said they respected him. The two of us posted up on a wall along the sea just next to the Spanish fort. From here, as the sun had been setting, we watched all the fishermen return to town. The most impressive, I’d have to say, had been the guys in the types of “boats” that I drew above that were made out of Styrofoam and were only big enough for one person and were mobile apparently by means of pedaling. I asked Yoel if people used to try to make it to the US in homemade boats like that during wet foot, dry foot. “Oh yeah,” he said, “people do that.” I asked him if he’d ever wanted to leave. He said he thought about it, but that it was too late now. “I’m in my mid-50s,” he said. “I got friends who made it to Florida that have created successful businesses. They tell me to come over, they say they have work for me and I could make good money. But the younger years where a man works hard to build his fortune have already come and gone for me. I don’t want to work hard at this age. I’m not going anywhere.”
After the vintage car city tour, I had a voucher for dinner at this trendy hipster sorta restaurant called Jama. The food was pretty good and after I ate the plan was to spend a couple hours wandering around before going back to Casa Azul and getting a good night’s sleep. From the heart of Old Havana I walked a little past the US embassy and then turned around and began the walk back along the malecón. I was probably about three quarters of the way back when I ran into these folks. The woman had a Russian name – Aliushka or Anushka, I can’t remember – and the two guys…well, I can’t remember their names at all right now, a month after having returned from this trip. The woman worked in a preschool with special needs kids and the guy on the right (a Santería-practicing priest) was married to the woman’s sister, who was currently living and working in the US – in Arizona, I think. Both the guys were professional musicians that used to work on cruise ships up until covid hit. They both toured all over the Caribbean and Europe and had been to the US. On this night, the older guy on the left was out working the malecón making dog shit money compared to what he used to make while getting tipped big by drunken tourists on cruise ships. Like many others, the two on the right were just out for a leisurely night drinking a bottle of rum there along the ocean. When I was walking past they invited me for a cup of rum. I declined but stood around chatting for a bit. They performed a song for me. The guy on the left was really goin apeshit on the drums, while the other two just sung and used their hands. After the song, I gave a small tip and we continued chatting. They again offered me some of their rum. I said what the fuck and took a shot. The guy on the left excused himself to go to a different area of the malecón where he thought he might have some more luck making money. I continued sitting with the girl and the guy on the right and helped them finish their bottle of rum. The chatter was very friendly and I told them that right before I left for the airport on Sunday morning, they should come to my guesthouse and I’d give them all my soap and toothpaste and deodorant and a couple t-shirts and whatever else they could use that isn’t available to them in stores down in Cuba. They were very grateful and said that they’d be there.
I didn’t have any more money on me at the time but back in my room at the guesthouse I still had 25 Euros left. Ten were for lunch the following day, ten were for dinner and the last five Euros were to tip the cab driver who’d be taking me to the airport Sunday morning. Since these two were so gracious in sharing their bottle of rum with me, I felt it only right if I were to return the favor. I told ‘em I had ten Euros at my guesthouse we could use to buy another bottle if they wanted to take a walk with me. I figured I’d just skip lunch the following day. They said that that sounded like a good idea. So we went back and got the money and were about to go to a store to buy more when they suggested it would be cheaper to buy booze from one of their friends instead of from the store. I said I didn’t care where it came from, let’s just get it. They say we’ll do it their way. So the guy runs off to go get the booze. Or at least that’s what I think he’s doing. In my mind I was certain that I’d given him the money and he was off making the purchase and would be back in five minutes. In reality, this wasn’t the case. I still had the ten Euros in my pocket as me and the woman sat down on a curb and waited for nearly an hour for the guy to get back. By the time he did return my buzz had worn off and I was cranky and hungover, and when I saw he didn’t have the booze I was very annoyed. “Que putas?” I said, “Where’s the fucking bottle?” And he’s like, “I haven’t gone yet, I had to go visit my family. But now we are going to go get the alcohol. Can I have the ten Euros?” And I was like, “Dude, I gave it to you earlier!” And he got very defense and said, “No you didn’t. I swear.” And I checked my pocket where I normally keep my money and it wasn’t there.” And I was like, “This sucks, I thought we were friends. I feel so betrayed.” And ya know, this is their neighborhood. There are other people around on the street that know them and can overhear that I’m making this accusation. And again he says, “We ARE friends. I swear. I would never steal from you. Check ALL of your pockets. You never handed me the money.” So sure enough I check my other pockets and the money is in a different pocket – one where I’d drunkenly stuffed it without thinking. And I handed it over to him and they went to get the booze while I sat and waited on a curb near an area with a couple clubs and a couple bars nearby.
When sitting there waiting for them to return with the booze, I felt so guilty that I just hung my head down between my knees with shame. During this time someone came up and asked me what was wrong. It was some skinny drunk woman who looked like she was in her mid-forties. I said that nothing was wrong. She asked my name. I told her. She said. “Timothy, I love you.” And I just looked at her. She wasn’t bad-looking, but she was definitely a drunk-ass, possibly a crack user. I mean, whatever substance she was on, she was crazy as fuck, that appeared quite obvious. The other two returned with the booze and I apologized to them for destroying the trust and friendship we’d had with my accusations. They said not to worry about it. The drunk lady said, “Oh you guys know Timothy?” And they just kinda ignored her and shooed her off. I also chose to ignore her and she eventually went away. They said, “Eh, we don’t like her. She’s no good, ya know?” And I said, “Yeah, okay, sure.” And they poured me a full cup of booze and I couldn’t even take a sip. I sat with them for like half an hour more and then excused myself. I said I’d contact them the following day about instructions of when to meet on Sunday morning to pick up the toiletries and clothes. And with my full cup of booze in hand I began the 20-or-so-minute walk back to my guesthouse.
Once I’d gotten about a block away from the action, I realized that the skinny drunk bitch had been following me. I greeted her and she ran up and grabbed my arm. “Are we going back to your place or mine?” she asked. I told her I don’t have any money. She said she doesn’t care about money because she loves me. She took the cup of booze from me and took a sip. I kept walking. She kept grabbing onto me. I told her to leave me alone. She said she’d do no such thing. “Where is your place?” I asked. She pointed in the opposite direction. “I’m not going that way,” I said, “and you’re not coming into my guesthouse. So…good night. It was nice to meet you.” She kept following me. About five minutes later on a dark street I went to take a piss on a wall. She came over and popped a squat a few feet away from me and took a piss over her own. She asked if I wanted to fuck her in the ass. I said no, but was starting to get turned on. As we got back to walking, she kept touching and rubbing me. She pulled me over to a doorstep leading to someone’s house. “We’re gonna fuck right here,” she said as she sat me down and then stood in front of me. She pulled down her pants and I said, “Let me see your pussy.” I pulled out my phone and shined a light on it. She pulled her lips apart. It was hairless and didn’t seem to have any obvious signs of disease. I was playing with myself through my pants. Even so, I resisted the urge. I stood up and kept walking back towards my guesthouse. She kept following me. We passed a park where a drunk guy was sitting on a bench. I said to the guy, “Hey, this lady wants to fuck. Will you take her? She won’t leave me alone.” He says, “That right there is a good Cuban woman – why don’t you want to fuck her? How about me, you and her right now? We’ll share her.” I said, “Nah, I’m good. But if you want her, she’s yours.” I kept walking. She followed and said to me, “Why are you being so cruel? I love you.” I said, “You don’t love me. And I’m not being cruel. You can’t come into my guesthouse. I told you that back there but you didn’t want to listen.” She just keeps following me and touching me. We’re in Old Havana now. I see a shitty looking building with the front door open giving way to a little foyer area with a couple doors leading to apartments and a staircase heading up to the second floor. “Okay here,” I said, no longer able to resist the temptation. “Let’s fuck.” She pulled down her pants and I dropped mine to my knees and slipped a condom on. She had her hands up against the wall and I gripped her bony little hips and started to rail her from behind. She was moaning very loudly and kept trying to turn halfway around to give me a kiss. “I don’t wanna kiss you,” I said. She again asked if I wanted to fuck her in the ass. I said no and kept pounding. I was trying so hard to cum, but couldn’t. This pounding went on for almost ten minutes before she suddenly turned around and said, “Gimme fifty dollars!” And I said, “I don’t have any money, I already told you that.” She didn’t believe me and started grabbing at my pants pockets. She grabbed my phone and I wrestled it from her hands, pulled up my pants and stepped out into the street. “Give me money!” she yelled after me. And I said, “Okay fine! I’ll give you money. But you left our drink inside. Let’s go find it.” I walked back into the building and pretended to look for the cup and as soon as she did the same, I turned around and started running away. Once I was a block away, I reached into my pants and ripped off the condom and ditched it on the street. I found my way back to the guesthouse then got right in the shower where I could wash myself off and furiously masturbate until finally reaching orgasm.
Day 8: Havana
So the next day I didn’t get up for breakfast. And since I’d spent those ten Euros the night before on alcohol that I didn’t even drink, I had no money for lunch. I laid in bed until about 2pm and then got up to work out in my room and eat the last protein bar I had stored in my backpack. During that time, I’d also used the hotel wifi to send a whatsapp message to the guy and chick from the night before to coordinate what time they should come over on Sunday morning to pick up whatever stuff I wouldn’t need. I’d end up not hearing back from them by the time I left the guesthouse to go on a long walk. The mission, I’d decided, was to walk halfway across the city to visit a park dedicated to John Lennon where they had a metallic John statue sitting on a park bench. I mean, how weird is it that this place exists? A place dedicated to an artist whose music had been banned for years because the philosophy of his message never aligned with that of the Cuban communist regime? Anyway…after that, I’d walk back to Old Havana, eat dinner and then go to bed. Easy enough, right?
My favorite part about this trip was just walking through these normal neighborhoods and chatting with people here and there while seeing how everybody actually lives. It was nice to see Cuba’s capital city away from the circus that is Old Havana where just because you’re a tourist, everyone’s trying to hustle you. Away from Old Havana, no one really bothered me. And the part of the city in which Parque John Lennon was located was a nice quiet residential area that I was really glad I got to see and spend some time in. That said, one of the most surprising things I’d witnessed on this trip were the long lines I saw on this day leading from every supermarket and corner store that I’d walked past. And after a while, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked a group of women what they were standing in line for. She said that this was the first time in over a month that any of the stores had chicken available for purchase and that everybody was trying to get their hands on some.
After sitting on the park bench next to John for a bit, I decided it was time to start walking back Old Havana. I walked past a Beatles-themed night club called Submarino Amarillo and kept walking for a few more blocks until some dude strolling past looked at me and said, “Damm!” He was reading my shirt. I said, “Yeah, borrachos en contra de madres locas.” In English he replied, “Yeah, I can see that.” I don’t remember exactly how our conversation evolved so quickly, but in no time we were talking about US-Cuban relations and life in Cuba and all this other shit. We figured out we were both walking in the same direction and continued talking until we reached his house. At that point we still had much to discuss so he invited me in. His name was Alex, he was about forty, he was black, he had a son and a daughter, he worked as a nurse but was also getting a doctorate in Spanish. “You’re studying Spanish,” I said, “but how is it that your English is so good?” He told me that he used to be in love with a girl from California and that they always spoke in English together. He asked me if I liked rum. I said I do. He said we should go get a bottle from the guys who live on the corner. “They make their own,” he said. “It is very good and cheap. Got any money?” I said I did and handed him the ten Euros I was gonna use to buy dinner. We walk over to the house on the corner and knock on the shudders next to a window with bars over it. Alex hands an empty bottle and some money through the bars and some guy inside takes it. He fills the bottle up and passes it back to us. We go back to Alex’s and pick up where we left off.
So we go back to Alex’s house and as we’re drinking he reveals his plans to take his wife and kids to the United States. He says that life in Cuba is like life in a prison. He shows me all the work he’s been doing on the house in order to sell it (during this time he also shows me a t-shirt from the 90s with Elian Gonzalez on it). He says he thinks he can get USD$150k from a Cuban buyer living in America which would be enough money to get him and his family to the states illegally, still then having enough left over to start a new life here. He said he wants his kids to have more opportunities than he’s had in Cuba. He wants to take them to Disney World and for them to experience the American Dream. Then at some point, his cousin calls their antique landline phone and starts complaining to Alex about his woman troubles. He puts me on the phone with the guy. I chat with him for five minutes and give the phone back to Alex. We’re listening to the radio. Before you know it, the first bottle of rum is gone. We decide to go get another. The first house is sold out. We go try another house. As we approach, there’s a group of black guys hanging out in the street in front of the house. One guy, in his forties I’d say, says to Alex, “Hey my nee-gare! What’s up my nee-gare?” And they greet each other and the guy looks at me and says, “You, your skin is very light. Put your arm up next to mine.” And so I put my forearm up next to his. And he says, “You are not black.” And I responded, “I know. I’m not part of the club.” And he says, “That’s okay. Because you have the mind of a black man. If not, you would not be here.” And the guy sent someone inside to go get me and Alex another bottle of rum. We said goodbye to the dude and started walking back to Alex’s house. On the way, we stopped and talked to some hookers on the street. They were 19 and 20, I think. Alex said we should fuck them and I said I’d love to, but with what money? I told him that those ten Euros were all I had. And that I still need to eat something today. So we bid the hookers adieu and ended up picking up some tiny pizzas from a nearby shop then going back to Alex’s and polishing off the second bottle of rum. We then went out for a third bottle which we got from a third local dealer and took it with us onto some public transportation towards Old Havana where we were planning to drink it. I don’t know where we got off or who we were talking to. The last thing I remember was interacting with a group of young Cuban dressed like punk rockers.
At some point, I come out of a blackout and find myself facedown on a sidewalk. The only thing I understand is that I need to throw up. So, I start barfing and keep barfing until I feel like it’s all out of my system. I stand up and check my pockets and notice my phone is gone – don’t know if it was stolen or if I’d lost it, but I’d never see it again. I don’t know where I am or what to do, so I just start staggering along. I can barely walk. I think I’m near the malecón. Some black hooker comes over and is helping me along. She’s got this top on that covers her breasts but shows everything from her neck down to her belly button – all of which is completely tattooed. She says she’ll help me back to my guesthouse. As we’re walking along, I ask her why she’s so nice. “Why are you such a good person?” I wanted to know. “I’m not a good person,” she replied, “I’m only helping you because I want a gift in return.”
So we go back to my room at the guesthouse and I’m laying on my bed all fucked up as this hooker is going through all my belongings. She holds up every item she’s interested in to ask if she can keep it. A mini towel? “Yeah, go for it,” I say. That plain black t-shirt? Sure, why not? My toothbrush and paste and deodorant and bar of soap? Yeah, it’s all yours. My electronics? No, I’m sorry. You can’t have any of those. She respectfully sets them back down. After she gets all she wants, she leaves. I check my travel wallet to make sure all my credit cards and passport and stuff are still in there. They are. But I noticed that my collection of Cuban currency is gone. Every country I go to, I try to bring back one of every bill denomination that they have there. And like, I didn’t say she could have those. So, I was pissed off and went running out into the street to see if I could find her. I didn’t bother putting shoes on and decided to start running in a direction I randomly guessed she might’ve gone in. I ran for a couple blocks and didn’t see her. I decided I should just go back to the guesthouse before I get lost or end up getting glass in my feet if I hadn’t already. Pictured here are the stolen bills
Here’s a 5-peso bill that I didn’t know existed when I’d taken the previous photo. It too was taken by that woman of the night. As was the 5-Euro note that I planned on tipping the taxi driver with for the ride to the airport on Sunday morning. Needless to say, the next day with a full twelve hours in transit from Havana to Chicago via Miami were an absolute nightmare. I also didn’t enjoy having to buy a new phone after having already spent so much on this overpriced tour. The first couple weeks back from this trip, I was strongly considering killing myself, but ended up not doing so. I decided to put these photos/captions together instead.