HAVANA’S KID CHOCOLATE : PART ONE
A Real Mangon
In 1959 I escaped from my Connecticut and very “liberal” boarding school. I was on my way to Havana, planning to join its band of young revolutionaries. I wanted to meet Che.
In Florida I was caught and taken back to Connecticut. But now, many decades later, I had finally made it.
It all started with the “no smoking” sign above the Cancun airport ashtray, both of them installed by the airport authorities. Eccentric enough, but when I saw two men hammering the exit door into place, a small feeling of uneasy anticipation welled up from places usually reserved for Pepto Bismol.
Then when the announcement came in Spanish saying that we were flying into the Cuba at only 17,000 feet because the plane was too old to go higher, my usually friendly relationship with the azure waters of the Caribbean soured.
Perhaps I didn’t like planes after all.
I was on my way to see the old stones of Havana and to dive at the Gardens of the Queen, the Jardines de la Reina, for my first voluntary encounter with sharks.
The sign on the way in from the airport to the hotel for “Kid Chocolate” made me smile. Almost as much as the 28-year-old Cadillac convertible making more noise than that tired old jet.
Coming out of Hemmingway’s favorite El Floridita bar at midnight we walked this Cohiba-smoke-filled city of perfect Greek-Revival buildings in eloquent disrepair. At midnight in less than semi darkness, the streetlamps light up only dark figures in blinding white. No worry that they are sixth-day priests of Santeria. but
“Less dangerous than Priests”, a glorious young revolutionary guide told me. “The worst that can happen is that they will cast a spell on you if you look at them in the wrong way.”
Just like my altar boy days.
A gigantic and very strong Mojito at the hotel pushed away thoughts of anything except the disturbing and very emotional pleasures of faded beauty. I don’t mean mine. That is more like a ruin, and Havana is far from that.
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