Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Commie Whores

So we're sitting at Pekin, a dank dive we were lured to by a taxi driver who said the Buena Vista Social Club was playing there. In Havana, saying the Buena Vista Social Club is playing somewhere is a rouse to get English-speaking tourists (or fans of Wim Wenders) to follow you anywhere. Obviously, the legendary Cuban musicians were not playing playing at Pekin. Aside from a small man with a small guitar (which I'm not even sure he knew how to play), there was no music at this tiny watering hole.

Pekin was, in fact, a whore bar in Havana's Chinatown. Yes, they have a Chinatown in Havana, but strangely, no Chinese people. They also have lots of prostitutes in Havana, but strangely no brothels or strip bars. They do, however, have whore bars. What, you may ask, is a whore bar? Well, it's a place where prostitutes display their wares while waiting to get picked up. It's not sanctioned by the government, but it is tolerated. Cabbies often drop their unsuspecting fares at these dens of iniquity. We never told the cabbie we were interested in ladies of the night, but I guess we looked like we were. And I assume that if we partook in the pay-per-play action, the cabbie would have gotten spiffed.

I was with my wife and her friend and her friend's husband. It was our first night in Cuba, the forbidden fruit of travel destinations. Growing up in Miami, I'd always dreamed of visiting our Latin neighbor to the South. Because of some ridiculous embargo imposed by our imperialist government after Castro overthrew Batista in 1959, it's been illegal for us Americans to go to the island, which is less than 300 miles from my childhood home. While planning a trip to Playa Del Carmen for a wedding, I decided to give a big ol' Fuck You to the The Man and his stupid rules. Before Mexico, we would go to Havana, illegally.

I'd imagined Cuba as it was depicted in The Godfather Part II - loud salsa music, extravagant parties, Hyman Roth, and Fredo. It wasn't. I'd imagined it to be a mix between Vegas, South Beach, and New Orleans. It wasn't. It was actually a dirty and desperate land filled with whores, both male and female, forced to sell themselves because an idealistic dictator couldn't accept the fact that his utopian visions never came true.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against whores. Shit, I love whores! I just don't like being in a place where the top occupation is whoring. And I'm not just talking about sex. In Cuba, whoring encompasses swindling, stealing, scamming, drugging, pimping and yes, banging. Because of the socialist economy, most Cubans make about $15 per month. To survive, whoring is the only option.

Before Pekin, we had been swindled no less than three times. First, my wife and her friend were forced into buying three mangos and an apple for thirty convertible pesos (forty bucks!). Then, my wife's friend's husband was conned into supplying mojitos and diapers to two guys claiming to be playing with the Buena Vista Social club that night. They weren't. Next, we were sold a box of fake Cuban cigars that tasted like they were sold at a Kum & Go in Greeley.

Getting suckered was our initiation. It was also our charity. The longer we were in Havana, the more we realized that these poor Cubans need our money. Unlike the Cubans that beat me up in high school, these Cubans are desperate. Even for us Americans, everything is really expensive. A meal, which is guaranteed to be sup-par could cost $200. Toilet paper and toothpaste are considered luxuries. Not much else is available and if it is, it's out of reach to the average Cuban. I felt bad for the communist pawns we came across. So, the swindling didn't hurt too bad.

After Pekin, we ended up at El Floridita (that's right, they have a web site), supposedly Hemingway's favorite bar. There, we drank with expats and travelers and learned the ways of survival in Cuba. First, stay away from the whore bars. We were with our wives, so that definitely made sense. But also, according to the seasoned johns, the prostitutes at whore bars are expensive. At regular bars though, the prostitutes could be had for a sandwich and a beer. Next, stop giving the locals money. Soap and pencils will suffice. Finally, don't eat, just drink. My wife disregarded this wisdom and spent the last couple of days in Havana on the toilet.

We left El Floridita chock full o' knowledge and ready to suck the marrow out of our fair destination. The next day, we found the real cigars, which were a little puff of heaven. We drank daiquiris at The Hotel Nacional. We found music that, while not played by the Buena Vista Social Club, sounded pretty damn good. We flirted with the prostitutes and we conned the con men. Cuba became what I hoped it would be.

Eventually, we began to understand this place. We understood why it was filled with great people that work the streets for bocadillos. We understood why grown men clamored for erasers and toys intended for small children. We understood why deodorant use was limited to once a week. We understood why stores had nothing to sell other than old toaster parts and crackers. We understood why Cuba had more scammers than Nigeria.

Castro and his followers are stubborn. They wanted to create an idealistic land where nobody is better than anybody else. Like the reality of an island filled with good looking hookers, this isn't as great as it sounds. Human nature dictates that individuals want to get ahead, or at least know it's a possibility. So, if doing that within the system is not possible, they're going to hit the black market with whatever they have - their genitals, their broken English, or their shitty cigars. That's Cuba, a nation of opportunists stripped of their ability to pursue opportunities.

For me though, I enjoyed being in a socialist state. There's something very refreshing about a lack of overt consumerism. I've been to some of the world's most remote destinations and I've found a Starbucks or a McDonald's. Not in Havana! On TV, they don't have commercials either. And, with the exception of propaganda, there are no billboards or ads littering the streets. Plus, because you can't make improvements to buildings without using overpriced government supplies, the whole country looks like it's stuck in the early sixties. Sure beats the gentrified subdivisions of our American inner cities.

Cuba ain't that bad. If you like whores and you don't like shopping and you don't need to eat much, follow my lead and embrace Castro's utopia. Don't worry about the embargo. We had no problem sneaking in and out. I even smuggled back some contraband (no, not whores). Viva la revolucion!

***Editor's Note: If you or anybody you know works for a government agency that busts people for illegally going to embargoed countries like Cuba, please remember that this posting is complete fiction. I've never gone to Havana and never will until the embargo is lifted. I also didn't urinate on the statue of Che Guevara in Vedado. Thanks.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Arguments in Favor of Obesity

Have you ever seen an overweight guy smiling and laughing, making you wonder why he's so happy? He is, after all, fat. Being fat sucks, right? In our society, that's the common misconception. However, in reality, it's not necessarily so. All we hear about in the press is how bad obesity is. Well, I'm here to argue that obesity is actually good.

If you're fat, you don't have to diet. In fact, you can eat whatever the hell you want. Steaks and sundaes and bacon and twinkies and mac and cheese and pudding. Go for it! What's the worst that'll happen? You'll get fatter? No one will notice. At the same time, if by some stroke of divine intervention, you lose weight, everyone will notice, and they'll make a big deal about it. Even if you only lose a few pounds, people will gush about how good you look.

Also, when you're heavy, you don't have to worry about buying nice clothes or taking care of yourself physically. Shit, you're fat no matter what you do. You don't have to go to the gym. You don't have to shop at expensive boutiques. You don't have to go to upscale salons. You don't have to brush your teeth. You don't have to wear deodorant.

Nobody blames you for being a slob. Nobody cares that you smell badly. Nobody ever tells you you look like shit. Nobody ever says you're putting on a few "el bees". That would be redundant. Nobody is jealous of you. Nobody hates on you. Nobody fucks with your game.

Then, there's love. If you're fat and you come across a chubby chaser, you're even hotter to them than a traditionally good looking person. And, if you're a chubby chaser and you're fat, life is great. Take your pick of the portly. Regardless, once you settle down, you'll know that your mate loves you for you, because it's definitely not your looks. That is, unless you have money. Then, at least you'll know you're being used and you can plan accordingly.

Because you were probably picked on as a child, you've grown some thick skin (literally and figuratively). After being called Tubby and Dumptruck and being compared to aircrafts and zoo animals, you've learned to be easygoing and to have a sunny disposition. Plus, if you're a guy, you've learned to kick some ass and if you're a girl, you've learned to give good head.

Famous fattys always have a blissful je ne se quois. Chris Farley, Artie Lange, Roseanne Barr, Kirstie Alley - they're all flabby and funny. Santa Claus defines jolly. Grimace puts a delightful purple face on our Big Macs and McNuggets. Michael Moore's the snarky voice of a generation. Oprah's Oprah. None of them seem to be sweating it (except Farley, he's dead).

Even if you're morbidly obese like Darlene Cates, the mother in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, life ain't too bad. You get all sorts of perks. You get upgraded to first class on airplanes. You get to sit in handicapped seating at the movie theater. If you'd like, you could live in a bed and get served, like royalty. Or, you could ride around town in a wheelchair/moped thingy. Man, I want one of those so bad!

Nobody should purge or starve or get their stomach stapled or undergo gastric bypass surgery. It's all a waste of time. If anorexics and bulimics would just take a look at the lives of the pudgy and podgy, they'd know that hefty is heavenly. They'd know that being fat is a footloose and fancy free existence of unbridled hedonism and sloppiness.

Unfortunately, I don't have the plump gene. So, no matter how hard I try, I'll never be like Dom DeLuise or Chef Paul Prudhomme (I can never tell those two apart). Oh how I wish I could be. I'd eat and drink and drool and sweat. I wouldn't worry about appearances and I wouldn't stress about upkeep. What a wonderfully full life that would be. I guess I'll just have to settle for sadly admiring the fat and happy. Godspeed, you blubbery whales!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

25 Random Facts

So, there's this 25 Random Facts thing that's overtaken Facebook. Essentially, it's a chain letter, like the early days of the Web or third grade (if you're a girl). Bored housewives and effeminate males and assorted other faceholes make a list of their "innermost" secrets, then they implore all their Facebook friends to read it.

Yeah, it's annoying and it's a waste of time. For the most part, the people who write these lists are the people you care least about. Still, you read and you read. Soon, you discover that everybody's trying to be quirky and clever and trying to show their friends just how great their lives are and how much they love their spouses and kids. Blah, blah, blah. Just what Facebook needs - another way to self-aggrandize.

"Hold on a second," you might be saying, "you're the king of self-aggrandizement with your wacky little blog! Who are you to judge?" I guess you're right. I guess I should play along with the rest of Facebook's narcissists and make one of those lists.

Fine! Twist my arm! Here are 25 Random Facts about Iron Mike. They're all completely and totally 100% true. Enjoy!

1. I once devoured a Filipino child just to prove I could.

2. Believe it or not, I've never used a computer. I dictate my e-mails to my assistant and have her surf the Web and give me a daily report.

3. I was born without a pancreas.

4. I hate Jewish people (myself included), I don't believe in Judaism, and I couldn't give a shit about Israel. Still, I covet my Semitic roots when I need to play the race card.

5. I've pleasured myself while watching Gossip Girl, 90210, AND The View.

6. I've saved every toenail clipping I've ever clipped since I was 15. Sometimes I spread them out on my bed and pretend I have hundreds of little people scratching my back

7. I enjoy taunting the elderly and infirmed.

8. I love my wife and my wife loves me (I think!?), but neither of us feel the need to gush about it in a stupid Facebook chain letter.

9. If it weren't for the Internet, I would be an adult bookstore regular. I'd also probably have several arrests for public masturbation.

10. I do not believe the children are our future.

11. For a while, every time I read about Hamas in the news, I thought they were talking about hummus. So, I thought all the fighting in The Gaza Strip was over chick peas and tahini.

12. I can run the 50 yard dash in 13 seconds. I can do 4 push ups. I can bench press 75 lbs.

13. Like Michael Phelps, I have smoked marijuana. Unlike Michael Phelps, I couldn't give a shit who knows.

14. Black women and lesbians love me.

15. I was a cutter, I had an eating disorder, and I was addicted to cocaine. Wait, that wasn't me. It was Lindsay Lohan.

16. My parents thought I was retarded until I was 4. They began thinking I was retarded again when I was 12, 19, and 33.

17. Over the past three years, my car has been keyed 18 times. I have no idea why.

18. On Top Chef, I think Gail is hotter than Padma. I'm kinda into Jenny on Flippin' Out and I'm strangely attracted to that Millionaire Matchmaker chick. I wouldn't touch Rachel Zoe with Tim Gunn's dick. Yes, I watch Bravo.

19. I'm not opposed to driving drunk, having unprotected sex, or smoking while pregnant.

20. Growing up, I didn't want to be a fireman, a baseball player, or a cowboy. I wanted to be a crooked politician, a doctor that illegally prescribes drugs, or a cell phone salesman.

21. I'm impervious to recessions, natural disasters, and the common cold.

22. I don't really write my blog. It's actually ghost written by a variety of people including Gore Vidal, Bob Woodward, Raul Castro, and Placido Domingo.

23. I have a fantastic perineum!

24. I'm really a very happy person. Ah, who am I kidding? I'm fucking miserable.

25. I've touched my dog in a manner some might deem inappropriate.