Oh, fuck. The alarm rings at 3am. Yay – I actually did sleep. Boo – This is dawn’s buttcrack. I place my feet on the floor and become busy. At 8:05, I will be flying back to Cuba. Due to prior thoroughness, consciousness manifests in efficiency. I am such a traveler. It is imperative to get to JFK three hours before our flight. Why? Time is short and slips away, forcing me to bolt. The streets are dark and slick with rain. Not a creature is stirring, except for a cab. The cabbie makes startling detour into Queens to avoid the BQE crush at the not-finished Kosciusko Bridge. This adroit maneuver makes me early.
Linda Michel-Cassidy, my companion in this tropical writers enterprise, walks through the Delta terminal door fifteen minutes after I do. We get visa-ed and de-bagged and shooed away. We penetrate security. Then, we wait. Then, we board. The plane appears loaded almost exclusively with assholes on their way to a clusterfuck of bachelor parties. Probably rival rugby teams, reconstituted on the cusp of middle age for a couple rounds of extreme drinking and non-extreme sports. And seated next to us, gabbing across the aisle is a threesome of New York’s highly specialized pseudo-yuppie millennials. They are bogus. Raucously and lamely, they humblebrag about their work at tech startups or SoulCycle and declare their love of mimosas. Getting shit-faced is their primary purpose. It’s 9 fucking 30 in the morning. As soon as we’re aloft, they fall asleep, but waken soon enough to recount more bullshit anecdotes or stupid plans. This airplane must be Douche Force One. We’ll never see them again, so hating is permitted. Our bags do not descend until they finally do. We sail through customs, declaring nada. And as soon as we step outside into the TROPICS, we spy a guy holding a ‘Robert Hansmann’ sign. Me? He tells us we must wait, because there’s a Miami flight with three other writers, Sue, Brandon, and Sarah, who he also has to corral and transport to Hotel Telegrafo.
Hotel Telegrafo is more centrally located than last year’s Ambos Mundos. It’s not in La Habana Vieja, but at the far end of the Paseo de Prado in Central Havana near the Capitolio. I’m excited about this new vantage point. Our rooms aren’t ready, of course, but it turns out the five of us are famished. A busboy guides us to a very decent paladar (private restaurant). I think we ate there last year, because I remember the chicken with bleu cheese. The five of us have a chatty old time. Now it’s time to get situated room-wise, showered, and whatnot. Oh, that’s so nice. I score an internet card (you must buy WiFi by the hour).
At 6:30 the entire group assembles in the lobby to attain tentative solidarity with one another and meet our guide, Orelvis, then head out for dinner. We are served on a rooftop terrace near La Catedral. Our lunch table reconstitutes itself, along with lovely Teri from Atlanta. After chocolate pudding, Tim and Alden, our trusted, amiable leaders, give us the choice of walking home or getting a ride on our Chinese Bus #5050. I choose to walk, following my fellow stragglers as they loiter their way up Obispo Street to Hotel Telegrafo. So tired.