If there was ever an image that will make you do a double-take, it's the one I've used today. Go ahead, stare at it for a bit...
I'm not writing this communique from "behind the Iron Curtain". Although, I did drop my cousin off at the airport this morning to jet off to Havana for a little R & R this weekend. How I wish I could have gone; for an American, there is nothing more taboo than Cuba. Not as much as it once was, but still; I could not travel there from American soil, unless I boarded a kayak off Mallory Pier in Key West, or via military transport to Guantanamo Bay.
Cuba has been verboten as long as I've been alive. Granted, Castro will not live forever - he might already be dead, and we just don't know about it - and one day before too long, there will be cruise ships and regional jets destined for Cuba from US locales. As a Canadian, I am free to travel there from anywhere in Canada, but it still seems strange to me. If Americans want to relax on a beach they go to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas or Jamaica. No one ever says, "I'm off to Havana this weekend for a little sun and surf." Even thinking it is weird. Here in Toronto, there are billboards all over the city, and posters in travel agencies advertising vacation packages to Cuba. To me, that's like putting up ads for Oscar Mayer bacon in a Kosher butcher shop. The first thing that pops into my mind is, "Bay of Pigs". Of course, I gave my cousin a rousing sendoff this morning with a hug and a request to "give my regards to Fidel." I couldn't resist.
Weirdness notwithstanding, the most coveted item from Cuba is their cigars. If you've smoked a Cohiba or a Montecristo out of a box bearing that "Habanos" label, you know what I'm talking about. There's just something about a Cuban cigar that makes Davidoff and Nat Sherman comparable to Phillies Blunt. Maybe it's because they're illegal, or maybe there's some secret formula tobacco that can only be grown on Cuban soil that differentiates them to the point of: once you've tried one, there is nothing else that comes close. I've smoked many a cigar in my day, and I can honestly say, a Cuban makes everything else pale in comparison.
You can get Cuban cigars here in Canada; if you're willing to pay the astronomical tobacco taxes. Hell, I've even smuggled them into the US - labels and all. But, that was a long time ago. And I'm not sure that I'd feel comfortable sunning myself in a place where people bear the heavy yoke of a Communist government around their necks. I'd love to get a look at the place, but - I don't know; as an American, there's something that feels very illicit about wanting to vacation in a place where people are making only pennies a day. Then again, if I managed to boycott every product imported from China into North America, I'd be walking around stark naked.
Much as I'd like to, I'd find it too exhausting to be an absolute idealist 24/7. In the meantime, I'll continue to boycott Wal Mart and try to purchase as many products made in Canada or the US as often as possible. Even still, there comes a point when you're reduced to shovelling shit against the tide. I'd like to hope that the G20 leaders might accomplish some sort of economic detente at their latest summit, but I won't hold my breath. I know the likelihood of Cuba turning into the Caribbean outpost of Las Vegas will probably happen before too long. Whether or not I'll go there remains to be seen. But if a Cohiba happens to find its way into my hands next week, you can be sure I'll light that puppy up tout de suite.
Have a great weekend.