Friday, August 28, 2009

Cuba, Part 1

It was early March, 2005.

I had been milling around the apartment in West Hollywood for weeks. Trying to figure out something to do.

Up until recently, I'd been working on a television show called "AWE" that had a segment on basejumpers who liked to go to Monument Valley, Utah and do their thing off of impossibly high and narrow spires that looked like giant stalagmites. The only way you could get up there was by helicopter. These guys would just step off these toothy-looking suckers, hundreds of feet in elevation, physically throwing their parachutes above their head as they did so. It was really fun footage to look thru.

Now, I wasn't prepared at that time, to do any basejumping, but the thought of spending a week or two at Monument Valley seemed pretty good to me. Spend a little time with nature. Get away from all the computers and monitors for a while.

One night, my girlfriend Danielle, who I was living with at the time, came home and asked me what I was going to do.

"I'm thinking about going to Monument Valley. Ever heard of it?" I asked her.

"Yeah. That sounds nice. Utah, right? But I have a better idea...let's go to Cuba!!"

I thought about it for a minute. Then, something occurred to me.

"Wait...isn't it illegal to go to Cuba for us?"

"Yeah, but so what? Let's do it anyway!"

"Where in the hell did this idea come from? Can you get off work, even?"

"I just found out that I have two weeks off coming up really soon, and I thought of this idea...I'm not sure where it came from," she admitted.

The next day I started doing some research.

There were hundreds of U.S. citizens who had been fined over $10,000.00 for going to Cuba. A small portion of those had served jail time. Statistically speaking it was somewhat akin to being hit by lightning, but the thought of owing 10 to 15 grand to the government did not fill me with joy. Nor did jail time.

I shared the results of my research with Danielle.

"That's not going to happen! You can be so silly, sometimes!" she laughed. had to consider the source. This was a woman who had backpacked thru Guatemala, by herself, in the middle of the night, for weeks. Not too many women who would do that.

"Well you might not be the best person to give an objective opinion on this matter," I informed her, delicately.

"Whatever. Let's go to Cuba! CUBA!!" she yelled excitedly.

I had to admit...the idea was starting to infect me.

So I researched the matter further.

No credit cards would work for a U.S. citizen, in Cuba. You would be required to have all the money--in cash--you were going to spend (plus some safety percentage) on you at all times. You could not be wired money from the U.S. under any circumstances. Phone calls to the U.S. were virtually impossible with ordinary phone lines. If anything happened to you, it could go badly, because, after all, you were not even supposed to be there, legally.

How would we carry two thousand dollars on us? That's a lot of pocket change!

Was that viable?

What if we got caught?

What if they stamped our passport? (which they probably would...customs officials always stamp your passport) How the hell would we get back into the U.S. with a Cuban stamp on our passport? It just didn't seem all that smart. Something would trip us up. Plus, I couldn't get over the idea of carrying two thousand dollars in our pockets. How long would you last in downtown L.A., in the middle of the night, with that kind of money on you? And it was legal to be in downtown L.A., mind you!

"Quit your damn worrying!!" Danielle kept saying.

Slowly, but surely, she was convincing me of the utter coolness of the idea...but I had my reservations about the whole thing...



At 4:55 PM PDT, Anonymous Suzy said...

Well, now I'm on the edge of my seat!! Can he do it - and live to tell the tale? Will there be Cuba Libres involved? Stay tuned....

At 7:08 PM PDT, Anonymous Ally said...


Oh! I remember this story!

Hurry up and get to the good part!



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