I’m driving a stolen car
Down on Eldridge Avenue
Each night I wait to get caught
But I never do

-Bruce Springsteen “Stolen Car”

Since minimalism is about experiences instead of Things, I thought I’d share the experience that I had while travelling a few years back.

The setting: Cuba.

Resort Cuba, not Tony-Montana-was-lucky-to-get-out-alive Cuba.

The time: May 2006.

I went on a daytrip to the mainland, a small town called Morøn. My girlfriend and I wandered the streets a bit, taking in the people and the places. Then one of the locals whom I recognized as a bartender from our resort walked up. He also recognized me and introduced himself. He told me he knew where there was a good store that had better prices than the resort.

We had a few minutes so we followed along. He said we were going to a ‘bar’ but what we entered looked more like a sandwich counter that had just had a theft of all of its furniture. There were only 2 other people in it and no products to sell of any sort.

Our new friend (Joelle – rhymes with First Noel), asked us to sit and offered beers. After a few minutes, another of the resort staff, Peter by name, came in and we were all introduced. Joelle led us toward what I thought was going to be a back room, having realized by now that I had wandered into the black market.

Where he led us was the men’s washroom, a 3×4 single stall with a flickering bare bulb. The three of us crammed into the bathroom while my girlfriend kept watch. She is trained in emergency medical so she was casing the place looking for saran wrap in case I received a sucking chest wound.

Peter reached in a backpack and pulled out boxes of cigars wrapped in newspaper. He was offering Monte Christos and Romeos for less than half the resort (ie: legal) price. We finally got him to pull out some smaller boxes and bought 15 for 2 pesos each (about $2.60 Canadian).

Just as I was pulling out my pesos, the light flickered for the last time and the bathroom was in darkness. That was the moment I thought was going to be the difference between exciting “Cuban adventure” story and tragic “a Canadian tourist was stabbed today” story.

Joelle stuffed the cigars, newspaper and all, into my girlfriend’s shoulder bag and I shoved the money into his hand. I honestly don’t remember a second of the time between handing him the pesos and being a block away. The adrenaline was rushing through me and we cut out of that place as fast as we could.

We headed back to the bus and it wasn’t until we were at the resort hours later that I could get a look at our purchase – 15 of the most beautiful cigars I have ever seen (and yes, sometimes a cigar is just a really good cigar).

Hours later, my girlfriend tucked into bed, I sat on the deck of our room, a light spring shower falling on the river, smoking a black market cigar, dreaming of the revolution.