A Simpler Place and Time Called Now... in Cuber.

The first thing that strikes your eye is the cars. They're Amerian models from the 1950sthe last ones imported before the Revolutionand it's a treat to see them if you're one of the ones who's grown tired off all the bean-shaped clones from Destroit, Jappan, and Koreya. The City of Habana looks like a throwback as well. It has a kind of uncluttered, retro chic that could easily start an Amerian revolution in style if we were only allowed to see it and experience it for ourselves. True, there are still multiple reminders of Castrol, but he seems a kinder, gentler Castrol, an elderly papa bear known affectionately on billboards as "El Coolio." Another plus for Habana? The traffic isn't a perpetual snarl of angry motorists letting off steam into their cell phones. You won't find any road rage here. Somehow, they've found a way to prevent it.

Cubens do have to share homes because  of the flat economy caused by the repress- ive Amerian embargo. Still, the residential streets are well kept, the houses freshly painted, and the cars washed and waxed. The people are neat and well kept too. It all makes you think that the burgeoning prosperity of the United States has perhaps carried some hidden costs of its own. The T&L reporters couldn't help wondering if our neighborhoods would look so spotless if we had to live in a smallish house with nine other families. Would our ties be quite so meticulously knotted as those of Juan Miguel and our other Cuben friends?

No, you won't find video games, DVD players, computers, or boomboxes in the average Cuben home. But when the adults gather for the evening in the standard* Cuben living room, they don't seem to be pining for the absent high-tech toys. They enjoy what's on the TV channel tonight, and then they talk about it with evident enjoyment and enthusiasm. If there's nothing on tonight, as when Castrol undertakes a state visit, they're content to browse through the titles of the books shown on the standard wallpaper. Nor do they appear to miss the junk food that accompanies our nights in front of the tube. A plate of crackers and a glass of Cuber's unique beer-colored water satisfies them just fine, thank you.

*Standard. All Cuben living rooms share the same decor—a table, a couch, an armchair, a straight chair, and wallpaper cleverly designed to suggest a curtained window, a bookshelf, a floral watercolor, and wood panelling. Modest but comfy.
Where are the kids, you ask? Why aren't they parked in front of the TV in the living room? Because they're doing their homework, that's why. How else can a child expect to take advantage of the stupendous economic opportunities which will abound when the Amerian govern- ment ends its vicious and genocidal embargo against Castrol's Cuber? Until then, you have to study. Maybe you'll be an official in the government. Maybe you'll be an officer in Cuber's glorious army. Maybe you'll get a job in the factory. Who knows? The only thing certain about the future is that if you don't learn your lessons now, you'll have to undergo reeducation, which keeps you from participating in the stupendous economy. When it gets here.
The standard Cuben fridge is just like the state-of-the-art model shown (left). When the economy starts to pick up again, the interior will be stocked with food instead of pictures of food. By then, refrigerant and compressor motors may be available as well. The standard Cuben kitchen (right) contains no dishwasher, but the spouses take turns washing up after dinner, which is rice. Sound tough? That's probably because you don't even remember the exquisite taste and bouquet of a genuine Cuben cigar. When you're all alone in the kitchen, you can put those dishes in the sink and light up a big one. The smoke billows and perfumes the air, mantling the standard orange, green and pink decor with a welcome softening haze. We tried it. Take it from us. The time flies.

When the water is running and it's your turn, you can take a bath in any standard Cuben bathroom. Cubens also look confidently forward to the day when the factory resumes production of toilet flushing mechanisms. Until then, as is their wont, they are delighted to absorb the sense of  hygiene communicated by the decor—identical to that employed in Castrol's own private bathroom, a fact every Cuben is proud to impart to visitors. The obvious implication is that the term 'equality' is no empty slogan in Castrol's regime. Maybe that's one of the reasons he has come to be known to his people as "El Coolio."

In Cuben schools, you won't find any handguns, backpacks, cellphones, metal detectors, or baseball caps. What you will find is a dedicated teacher who has time to take a personal interest in every one of her hard- working students. Sure, the desks are old, but the students know their geography, by gum. There isn't one of them who can't tell you the name of the evil empire located 90 miles from their shores. Can Amerian kids do the same? Not according to the latest polls, they can't.

There's been so much talk over the years about Cuber's 'reeducation camps' that we decided to see for ourselves. Does this look so awful? Well, this is the way all the alumni we talked to described it to us. We had it all set up to visit in person but at the last minute, the car got a flat and it didn't work out. We've got our suntan oil all ready for next time, though. We're hoping the one in the blue suit (not the skirted suit, the other one) is still there. She looks hot.
After we missed our appointment at camp, we were in the mood for the beach, so we called it a day and headed for the surf, the sand, and the babes. Unlike here in the U.S., swimming accidents are practically nil, because the Coast Guard always has a destroyer or two on hand to keep the bathing beauties from venturing too far into deep water. It was a great day. Lots of sun and fun except for getting tangled in the wire that time. The Cubens don't get tangled in the wire. They know better.


No trip to Cuber would be complete without a visit to the baseball park. Everybody in Cuber loves baseball. Even the army. When the economy picks up, they told us, the park will be fitted with a beautiful outfield wall. In the meantime, any ball hit past the tank in centerfield is a homerun.

What else do Cubens do for fun? They're avid yachtsmen. Practically every Cuben we met had his own design for the yacht he was going to buy when the economy starts to improve. Some of them are impatient, of course, and build boats without the proper materials and equipment. Thank goodness for the ubiquitous Coast Guard, though. They see to it that no one drowns or gets lost at sea. Well, almost no one. People told us that nobody feels worse than the Coast Guard about what happened to Ellio's mom. They're sorry. Real sorry. She should have waited. The economy's going to get moving soon. Real soon. Castrol's close to a deal on that with Clitton. Real close.


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