Upon arriving in Miami we decided to try our hand at being more talkative with random strangers… so when we stumbled on a park filled with dozens of Cubans playing chess and dominoes while we were wandering aimlessly around Little Havana (Miami’s Cuban enclave), we exchanged the look and immediately dove in.
And by dove in, I mean we sat awkwardly on a bench while trying to appear less conspicuous and foolish than we actually felt.
As we were busy pondering how rude and tacky it would be to take pictures before bolting, we were approached by someone with a framed picture in one hand (it turned out to be a portrait of the “father” of Cuba) and a petition in the other. Our first impulse is usually to avoid “solicitors”, but let’s be honest – we weren’t in a position to be choosy and we really wanted to chat with someone.
Why yes, I’d love to talk politics with you! What’s your petition for? What can you tell us about the current political climate in Cuba? Your take on U.S.-Cuban relations? Your experiences as a Cuban immigrant?
Our desire was to discuss Cuba (could you tell?), but first our friend felt the need to bring us up to speed on the war in Iraq — specifically how the main purpose really is to liberate teh poor womenz who can’t wear pants or go to the library or EVEN SMILE without getting stoned. “But wait!” I cried after aborting a futile attempt to argue with him about the current status of women in occupied Iraq (don’t even get me started on that shit, I have tons to say), “What in the world does this have to do with Cuba and your petition?”
And this is where the story gets interesting. After backing his claim to be a producer with solid evidence (namely, that he’d lived in LA), this gentleman informed us he was petitioning the U.S. Congress to allow him to conduct foreign policy by filming a reality show chronicling refugees returning to Cuba by boat to replace all of Castro’s pictures with images of Jesus.
Yup, go ahead and read that sentence again, I’ll wait.
A reality show. About a boat of refugees returning to Cuba. To topple the Cuban regime by establishing Jesus as the ostensible head of state. This is clearly the. best. idea. ever.
What’s more, he assured us the money generated from the reality show would be sufficient to fund follow-up efforts to militarily “liberate” the people of Cuba, who would appreciate the freedom as much as Iraqi women do (ah, there’s the connection).
At first I was skeptical, but then I was like WAIT, this might actually work. Isn’t this just an extension of the direction we’re already collectively moving in as a TV-obsessed country? VIVA LA REALITY-SHOW-FUNDED REVOLUCION! The Real Housewives of Miami might get in on the action, and Jeff Probst could host and create exciting challenges where people on the boat get voted off and then have to swim to shore without getting eaten by sharks.
See? This is what happens when we talk to strangers.
At this point it was apparent this wasn’t quite the in-depth discussion on Cuban politics we were aiming for, so we managed to delicately extricate ourselves. Exhausted and mildly confused, we went in search of more fruitful conversations elsewhere.
However, the subject of our next adventure proved to be Cuban cigars! We don’t really get our smoke on, but these cigars are legendary and local and we didn’t have anything else to do. Also, they’re sold everywhere.
The shop we wandered into crafts all their cigars on the premises, so we got to watch a dude roll some really big tobacco sticks. Apparently they get the seeds from Cuba, plant them somewhere in Central America, and then ship the dried tobacco leaves here and assemble it all in their store. The guy would grab a handful of leaves from a huge black trashbag and roll them into another thin strip of cloth (oops, turns out that was tobacco too), then mush it together and cut off the ends… and viola! There may have been a few more steps in there somewhere, but we were distracted by the cancerous cells developing in our lungs.
We did end up buying a few cigars for family members who we thought might enjoy them, though, so if you receive a cigar in the mail, congratulations! That’s probably from us.