Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Cigar Dinner Long Con

Friday was Stripes and Noodles' final day in Cuba and they were keen to spend the morning taking full advantage of the inclusiveness of their all-inclusive and we agreed to meet in the mid-afternoon in Havana Vieja, so i had the morning to leisurely stroll about the city. It was good. I could walk without aim, stopping where i liked to drink coffee or take photos. I smoked a cigar while i walked (well, more than one), which attracted calls of "Cohiba!" "Puro. Bueno!" In addition to the usual calls of "Lady!", "Linda!", and various variations of that, accompanied with comments on my tattoos. Difficult to keep a low profile in the non-touristy areas, but i still got some decent photos. 

I loved walking past the empty bodegas with little to sell and the anemic produce stalls, and counters selling endless sandwiches of pork on yellow bread. As touristy as parts of Havana are, it is very easy to find areas with none at all, and i was thankful for that.

Meeting up with Stripes and Noodles, we had come coffees, cigars, and drinks at one spot and then another, killing time in the pleasantest of ways until it was time for the closing dinner of the Partagas cigar festival. Noodles went back to his hotel to change and Stripes and i fixed ourselves up as much as possible (there is only so much i can do with the same sweat-soaked outfit i've been wearing all week) and caught a rusty, red Lada to the far edge of Miramar to, i don't know where, some hotel. 

When we arrived we joined the crowd, most of whom were wearing their finest, complete with sparkles and bowties. We were given a cigar each and a sickly sweet green cocktail and we did some hasty mingling before going inside to the air-conditioned dining room, which was stunning, like the wedding i never wanted. The crowd really was from all over the world, with every continent represented, like a Miss Universe pageant of cigar smoking men.

We sat for a bit with two guys from Detroit - a CEO and his attorney - who had flown in on a private jet. They were quite pleasant, but they moved to a different table for dinner, leaving us three at a table for seven. And this is where the con came in. Goddess-height models began distributing gift bags of cigars, one per guest. But with two extra place settings already disturbed, we decided to create two characters who were conveniently away from the table when the bags were doled out, so they left two extra bags for our absent friends. All evening, as they handed out more and more fantastic Cuban cigars, i kept saying, smoking that my husband (Eduardo Pachanga) was in the bathroom, and they kept giving me two of everything. Of course to keep this up, we had to nibble at the extra appetizers and entrees we also got and would move napkins and wineglasses around to keep up the ruse. But it worked and we got two sets of everything. Cheezy and juvenile? Sure, but i have all of my extra cigars to help with the shame.
After dinner, they auctioned off beautiful, one of a kind humidors sticked with cigars, that went for $10,000 to $20,000 to various, high-rollers. We wisely raised our hands only high enough to puff on our cigars.

We left before the dancing started and hailed a taxi back to Parque Central with our bags of cigars and a mostly full bottle of Santiago de Cuba 20 years rum. We decided to have one more cigar to finish off our final night in Havana together, but none of the bars appealed, so we sat down in the park, on a bench, near a sleeping drunk, and smoked cigars and Stripes and Noodles drank rum from the bottle at the time neared 1am. The weather and surroundings were perfect and it a great way to end the day. At about 1:30, we went our separate ways.

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