An Atheist in Cuba for a Communist Christmas with the Castros

Tuesday, January 08, 2013   by: Kevin Pecore“God is a Concept by which we measure our pain.” John Lennon

I never thought for a moment that the world was going to end on December 21st, 2012. Not for one nanosecond. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Plus, the Mayans are known for ball-parking figures and not carrying the one over when multiplying , so I feel sorry for all the rubes that bought one-way airfare to Chichen Itza with only a few days’ worth of clean underwear. As higher life forms go, humans have a shitty track record of crying wolf when it comes to predictions of the apocalypse. Unlike Nostradamus, Paul the Octopus, from Weymouth, England successfully predicted all winning teams during 2010’s FIFA World Cup tournament. Sadly, after the media circus left town Paul drank himself to death in a shitty hotel in South Hampton. At the time, he was allegedly engaged to Swedish runway model Yulgo Liavik.

If the earth’s axis did shift, jiggle or shake, rattle n’roll, I would look like a bit of a tool, but so be it, I’ve looked like a tool plenty of times, plus people would be too panicked to take the time to say: “I told you so, jackass” because they’d be running around and around in tight circles while on fire or something urgent of the sort. This is all not to say that a part of me didn’t groove on the notion of everything going straight to hell over the course of a few hours (how is that for a break in the routine!) but since I don’t believe in the spiritual penthouse that is heaven, I cannot in good conscience believe in the fiery wasteland that is hell, but if I did, hell would be somewhere right on earth – possibly a public washroom at any big city Coffee Time.

The constant threat of impending doom has always sounded a little bullyish. While buying a ham salad for a Gentleman’s Luncheon, a young man wearing a form-fitting Che Guevara t shirt said to me that “God is dead”, which, I guess at one time would be a shocking sentiment, looking cool spray painted in orange on the side of a bridge, or across the windows of a Starbucks. I told him to relax and don’t even think about cutting in line.

“God is most certainly not dead,” I said. “Or ailing in any way as far as I can tell. God was never born.”
While waiting for that delicious ham salad, I also added that there was not a God who created the earth in six days, only to put his feet up on the seventh day before commanding all his new children to do the same, and since they were doing nothing anyway (aside from light yard work), why not dedicate the Sabbath to thanking him for the hard work etc. Be grateful. Rejoice. Don’t question and whatever you do, don’t peek behind the curtain lest God will become quite irate. This just all sounds a little silly to me. Admittedly, I was in a weird melancholic mood, as I tend to be towards the end of each Gregorian calendar year. I think I depressed the guy a little. I felt bad and bought him some ham salad, inviting him along to my Gentleman’s Luncheon. His name was Jacob, but he pronounced it with a ‘y’ as in Yakob.

I’m an atheist, and have been since my Uncle Wallace presented me with my very own copy of Lenny Bruce’s book, ‘How to Talk Dirty and Influence People’, for my confirmation or baptismal. I keep getting them confused. I think I was nine or ten. He also gave me a Pocket Fisherman from RONCO, and a rusted machete. On those few occasions when I am asked what I believed in, I say, “Zoloft one million milligrams once a day” or simply the wondrous healing powers of ham salad. But, it’s only when I am asked. I don’t just offer that shit up. It’s too dangerous. I put more stock in spontaneous combustion than I do Catholicism or any kind of ‘isms’. I am a heathen. I am an infidel. I am a non-believer. I am a Libra that enjoys ham salad, The Kinks and caffeine.

Christianity has taken a hit over the last few decades. The Catholic Church is shadowed by innuendo, fostering a culture of corruption with widespread proven allegations of sexual abuse, strange scandals, money laundering, murder, and so forth. Yikes! If there was a God, and I was his legal advisor, I would have to suggest that he not talk to the press. Lay low for a while. Stop answering the door in that old robe. Shut down the twitter feed and stop horsing around with bogus Facebook accounts. Hire a top line celebrity Public Relations heavy hitter, and a wicked congregation of lawyers. If there was a God, he would surely have his own HBO series by now. As he does not is proof enough that he mustn’t exist. God, as a concept comes off more like a Mafia boss then a superstar miracle maker.

“FELIZ NAVIDAD” from Jose Feliciano
My family and I travelled to Cuba to spend Christmas in a small Communist country. While Jamaica has Bob Marley as its pop icon brand; his smiling face adorning everything from rolling papers to license plates, Cuba has Che Guevara. His face (sans smile) adorns everything from Cuban postage stamps to hats, t shirts and banana hammocks. Che was not Cuban. He was Argentinean. Fidel Castro is not Argentinean. His is Cuban. His face is everywhere as well, just not as much as his guerilla buddy. There are no banana hammocks with Fidel. Che’s portrayed as a rock star. Fidel? Not so much. From my limited understanding of Che, I always pegged him as a bit of a butcher. Quick with the executions. Judge, jury and executioner. Not very tolerant. He maniacal vision of a utopian society centered on the total erosion of the self. One mass under God. Not sure why’s he’s been so romanticized. I did buy The Bolivian Diaries mind you, but passed on the banana hammock.

Cuba as a communist regime is not big on the freedom to assemble, unless it’s at a buffet for foreigners. As far as I can tell, no one makes a whole lotta coin being born Cuban. It’s just a bad career choice. I bought a shirt at a flea market in Veradero. The price was fifteen pesos. It’s a nice black polyester bowling shirt. I’m not much for throwing cash around. I don’t spend frivolously, but the thought of haggling with an elderly Cuban woman over a few pesos just felt lame. My wife bought a cool piece of hand-made jewelry and when she informed the lady that the purchase was for my daughter who was turning 18 that day (December 21st), she threw in something from herself as well. That’s a grand, human gesture. It made feel happy. That small gift made my daughter happy. My advice for people touring around Cuba is to not nickel and dime the vendors. We take our income for granted. They take their income to live.

I have (had) Canadian military dog tags that I’ve worn every day since a friend gave them to me about twelve years ago. Attached to the chain is (was) also a tiny hand-carved wooden amulet that came from Haiti. Yeah, I’m an atheist, but black magic and voodoo do have killer fashion accessories. In the smoky Lobby Bar at the Occidental I ordered an espresso. The young Cuban who prepared it for me noticed the tags and commented in broken English, that he really liked them. I slipped the chain off and handed it to him as a gift.

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