I was seeing a psychiatrist when I finally decided that the time had come to smuggle $50,000 of my own money into Cuba, and it’s a good thing I was seeing him, because I’d almost decided to talk to some other folks about it before leaving. Fortunately, I mentioned to Doctor X that I intended to talk about the main purpose of my trip, and he suggested that I shut up completely about my smuggling plan, forthwith.
Not that I thought any of my family or friends were untrustworthy. But I was considering informing the travel organization I was going with to Cuba about carrying concealed cash on the trip. But for Doctor X, I might have blabbed; and the travel organization might have scotched my going with them; and I might have lost the resolution to do the deed.
So mum it was, and My Trip to Cuba in 1998 was by far the most wonderful trip of my life. Some day I hope to describe more of it in detail. Here, however, I’ll just describe a humorous event – virtually a trope – that occurred to me going through Cancun customs; and an epiphany I experienced at the Havana airport; and an encounter I had with an old boxer I met in Santiago.
Leaving America for Cancun, Mexico, and entering Cuba from Cancun, Mexico was no sweat in 1998. But entering Cancun from America was another matter. If the Mexican authorities discovered you were carrying 50 long to anywhere, without declaring it, you’d lose the money and likely spend time in jail. And it was the first time I’d ever smuggled anything across an international border. Consequently, I was in a state of suspended frenzy when my turn came to approach the counter and talk to the inspector I’d been compulsively eyeing while standing in line.
Suddenly I was fumbling at everything, including my laughing attempt to converse in Spanish. Nonetheless, after a minute the guy told me to pass on through. I probably flashed something like a smile of appreciation, as I gathered my stuff together and passed on through. Then wave after wave of relief started coursing through me, and I regained consciousness of my moving legs, and of the fact that I was holding my little bag over my shoulder and pulling my big bag on it’s little trolley wheels. Then I became conscious of something else, a voice, not yelling but saying loudly and forcefully, “Senor!!, Senor!!” Yeah, it was directed at ME. At MY back. At me and my life-long dream of smuggling as much money as I could afford to Cuba - para La Gente Cubana, Fidel, y Che.
“Senor!!” the voice repeated. “Come here!”
I turned, a broken shell of a man, and staring at the floor retraced my steps from the counter. Yes, the shouting official was the man who had just allowed me to pass on through. And I wasn’t even focusing on the man’s face when I heard him say, “So Sorry, Senor! You left your passport here on the desk.”
The epiphany occurred more than 12 hours later, in Cuba.