This morning, my teenage daughter tried to lecture me about my behavior.
“Mom, we aren’t in Cuba anymore,” she said, pursing her lips and frowning. “You’re still drinking Cuban coffee and forcing us to listen to Cuban music all the time. Every time I come into the kitchen, it’s playing on the stereo. We are back in the United States now. It’s time to get over it. Let’s move on.”
I had one word for her. “No.”
She had a great time in Cuba, as did we all, so I’m not sure why she thinks we have to come back to real life. In my opinion, reality is highly overrated, anyway.
If I have to listen to hour upon hour of their migraine-inducing hip-hop and auto-tuned pop music on a daily basis, I’m pretty sure they can live through a little rumba, timba and son, which some experts consider the best music in the world.
To catch you up, my son, Cheetah Boy, daughter Curly Girl and four friends went to Cuba recently for eight days. We flew JetBlue out of the Long Beach airport and changed planes in Ft. Lauderdale, into Havana.
It was easy and affordable. It was cheaper than flying to New York. You should go. I’m writing a travel story about our trip, so I won’t get into details, but let’s just say it exceeded my expectations.
I’m not sure I really knew what to expect, to tell the truth, since Cuba remains such a mystery to most Americans. I only knew that I wanted to get there before the American trade embargo is lifted, and the entire island is overtaken with McDonald’s restaurants, Subway shops, Costco stores and Walmart.
Think I’m joking? What’s at the bottom of the Spanish steps in Rome? A McDonald’s. Across the street from Windsor Castle? McDonald’s. At the Museum of Communism in Prague? McDonald’s.
Like cockroaches, they’re everywhere.
Apparently, there actually already is a McDonald’s in Cuba, but it’s only on the American base at Guantanamo Bay. Probably part of the torture terrorists endure at the notorious prison there.
Just kidding, it’s there to serve the Naval service members, who apparently don’t have enough punishment being forced to live on a military base in a paradise they can’t visit.
But, forget about McDonald’s. I want to talk about Cuba, where there are no other McDonald’s restaurants, nor a single Holiday Inn, Burger King or Starbucks.
Just the absence of Starbucks alone would make it a worthwhile destination in my book, but there are also beautiful beaches, fascinating crumbling architecture, revolutionary rhetoric, great music and cheap rum.
You don’t miss the Starbucks, by the way, because Cuban coffee is everywhere and delicious, especially if you like your java thick enough for the spoon to stand up by itself.
I was glad I’d brought my son along, because we needed someone young and buff enough to haul seven suitcases up and down the endless staircases of our ancient guesthouses in Havana and the town of Trinidad.
Cheetah Boy was also useful when we took a hike in the Cienaga de Zapata natural park, which consisted of walking on ancient limestone formations and looking for birds and wildlife in a forest, until we were dripping with sweat and dehydrated.
He lent me a hand and helped me haul my keister up and down the limestone rocks that everyone else seemed to leap over like mountain goats. Ironically, I didn’t fall until the end, when a low-lying branch did me in and I landed flat on my back with a whomp. Luckily, it was embarrassing but not painful.
Speaking of the endless staircases, I bitterly resent the implication that I was drunk just because it took me 10 minutes to get down from the rooftop terrace of the La Concordia restaurant in Havana. Yes, I was swaying, but only because I had to hold my long dress in one hand while I navigated three floors of narrow stairs.
Admittedly, I drank two mojitos, a pina colada and a glass of wine during dinner, but the grilled lobster and vegetables soaked all that up. So stop the slander and stop it now.
As some of you know, I’ve been on a health kick this year and lost the equivalent of Brittany Spears in body weight by laying off junk food, booze and most animal products.
Well, that didn’t happen in Cuba. I not only ate everything I wanted – which mostly consisted of fish fresh from the ocean—but I also drank just a tiny bit of rum.
You know I like to save money, and it was very cheap. Also, healthy, when you consider I mixed in fresh mint in the mojitos, freshly juiced coconut and pineapple in the pina coladas, and tomato juice in the Cubanitos.
It was really a health food. So, maybe the Presidente beer wasn’t a health food, but I’m sure if I spent some time on the Internet, I could find health benefits for beer.
Speaking of the Internet, there isn’t any in Cuba. Well, that’s not true, but it’s very limited. Most people don’t have Internet in their homes, and if you want to get online, you have to go to a public park and buy a wi-fi card for a couple bucks that will get you on for an hour.
It’s easy to find these parks, because it’s the only place where people are sitting and staring at their phones, unlike at home, of course, where they do it 24 hours a day.
It was delightful being unplugged, and especially having actual conversations with my children that didn’t involve them turning away to watch a cat video in the middle of our talk. At first, the teens had painful withdrawal symptoms, but by the end of the trip, they weren’t even bothering to buy wi-fi cards or sneak out to the park.
One of my friends said on our return that she was worried about us, because none of us were posting anything on social media, so there was general concern that we might have been arrested by the Cuban government.
But, instead we were arrested by the stunning Caribbean beaches, the kind and funny people, the irresistible music, the dancing, the glory of crumbling cities, the step backward into the past, the life without televisions or junk food, swaying palm trees and humid, tropical air.
So, no, my beautiful daughter. I won’t get over Cuba. Though I might have to get over the five pounds I gained while I was there.
Let me just have a few more mojitos, first.
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