postcard-CUBA

Cuba: Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera

It’s a simple offer. It could happen almost anywhere in the world. “Marijuana, $20.”

How much that buys is never certain. But that’s rarely important in the face of such a rare opportunity while abroad.

Transaction complete, euphoria nearer.

Next, figure out where to consume it and who’s gonna partake.

Meanwhile, do not run afoul of local law enforcement.

In this case, it’s the federal police of the island of Cuba.

So, how to score?

In this country, visitors rely on the local hospitality … for everything. Luckily, every Cuban is friendly as fuck. Even the old ones who were 10 years old when the big Packards still roaring around Havana first arrived in Batista’s day.

Cubans want visitors to enjoy their land. They’re serious. Don’t be shy. Soak it in. And definitely inhale.

It makes sense that smoking anything in Cuba is popular. They grow tobacco. And they roll it too. And man, are the cigars good. They’re also everywhere. Smoking is encouraged— including in the airport terminal.

Unfortunately, this generally does not extend to marijuana. Cannabis remains an illegal drug in Cuba. Just how illegal is a bit vague: Stories of tourists imprisoned for 20 years for possession and Cubans sentenced to 30 years for selling bounce around the internet rumor machine. By his own admission, El Jefe Raul Castro says the Caribbean Communist country is free of drugs — save for a little marijuana.

Maybe, just maybe, one of those nice Cubans could find some. …

To become an attractive target for a Cuban would­-be cannabis seller, try to appear inviting. Appear inviting enough that a slick young guy who knows English as well as anyone on the street wants to be pals for the night. Have enough money for the U.S.-­like prices — for everything — and bring more cash than seems appropriate.

When the gentleman initially offers a meeting with one of Havana’s more lovely looking women, a choice needs to be made. Go that route — or say no thanks. If it’s no thanks, he may ask if he can just stick around and maybe help show off his city. Consider the offer. For this, all he requires is to be provided alcohol and/or food. In return, he will open all the doors to all the impossible-to-get-into nightclubs and the hidden speakeasies. He will continue to offer his — uh — liaison capabilities through the night. Just go with the flow. And that flow will be a decidedly addictive, rhythmic, and movable salsa island sound.

At one club, more people will join the party. They will be friends, and they will be pretty cool if not a bit awkward. Again, do not hesitate. Jump in. After a while, the new guy will ask the other guy to see if he should get some weed. When $20 is presented, he is gone like that puff of cigar smoke dissipating into the air.

Thirty minutes will pass easy. That’s when the anticipation will set in. Was this a good idea? Is the money just gone, and if so who cares? Will those 20 convertible Cuban pesos result in convertible cannabis bliss?

When the new guy returns, he has marijuana. The two locals now hatch a plan for consumption. Meanwhile, one of the lovely ladies has joined the group. The consensus is to have one guy scout out locations while the rest of the group waits in the nightclub’s foyer. During the wait, old popcorn will serve as a snack. This takes another 10 minutes that seem to last 20. He returns, skeptical. There are federales all over the place. Some discussion takes place and the group decides to go forth, but with caution.

The group splits into two pairs. Each group approaches the identified easy street from either side to meet in the middle. One guy goes up to each door along the block, pressing lightly on each, looking for an opening. All the doors look like they could lead to abandoned buildings. Alas, most are locked. After six or seven tries, many looks over the shoulder, much tip­toeing through the night, one particularly decrepit door opens.

One by one, everyone shuffles in without a word or a sound. It’s dark and rank smelling inside. The hum and dim sound of a television from a neighboring apartment is all that can be heard, save for the creaks of an old and barely standing staircase. Breathing seems like it will be too loud.

The guy who procured the marijuana takes it out. Luckily the roof is letting in plenty of moonlight — otherwise this would be more difficult. He manages to spin up what looks like a pin­joint. At $20, it’s certainly an expensive cigarillo.

But it’s rolled. It’s lit. It gets passed. It tastes like some version of marijuana that might be found in a sock after years of hibernation. It’s definitely cannabis, though.

That immediately becomes apparent with the rush.

Perhaps it’s the prostitute, perhaps the staircase, perhaps the two guys, perhaps the threat of police EVERYWHERE. Perhaps it was just good shit.

The joint becomes a roach in no time, although it lasts longer than it looked like it could at the beginning. By the end, both Cuban guys are inhaling through their noses as if they are snorting from a tiny straw.

The lady becomes friendlier as the joint burns. She acts like the whole ordeal is no big deal, whereas tourist gringo du jour is 8 miles high.

The joint is gone. The session is over and it’s immediately time to go — no lingering in a haze today.

The door is just as hard to sneak out of, but everyone manages without a single splinter.

And just as they came, they left — if a bit lighter and less interested in what could happen if it all goes wrong on the way back.