To You Hustlers, From Havana

As some of you probably learned from my humble brag in the form of a Facebook update, I recently took off to Cuba for a quick vacation. Initially I was unsure and anxious about being faced with the unknown that Cuba has been my entire life, but in all honesty this country has been good to every part of my soul. Cuba is, in essence, the physical statement of two conflicting realities. Cuba is the meeting place for the past and future. Just today I saw a 2015 Mercedes C-Class whip around a horse and buggy being trailed by a pieced together 1955 Chevy. I’ve seen the newest smart phones riding a hardly 2G cellular telecom network and the old dwelling with middle aged and young in households wherein multi-generational cohabitation is not only celebrated, but ordinary.

This time lapse is one of the many characteristics that makes Cuba a sort of mental and emotional wormhole, connecting you to several different places in time, at the same time. This place is so dense in its scenery, food, music, architecture, and culture that it’s damn near paralyzing. It captivates you in such an overwhelming way that you’re unknowingly forced to capture moments of awe in their present rather than attempt to document through the screen of a smartphone or camera lens. I’ve taken evening walks down the Havana pier and witnessed spiritually elevating sunsets, danced to Migos’s Bad & Boujee coming from a family’s living room turned barbershop, and been hustled by a woman who swore she needed powered milk for her babies (only to be seen an hour later peddling the same known scam to another group of American suckas). I was invited into people’s homes to take part in neighborhood hookups (good lookin’ on the Montecristos), saw a group Cuban men absolutely DESTROY another fella for falling while attempting to appeal to the opposite sex and jog at the same time, was given fair well kisses of protection by folks who looked just like me, and was serenaded by a Cuban man with R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly (I refuse to hyperlink to this shit). Why he chose that song, I’m not sure. While I appreciated the innocence and sweetness of the gesture, I’m sure he doesn’t know Kells abuses and degrades little Black girls for sport and self-loving Black American women, who will always choose the well-being of our girls over that bullshit R. calls music, don’t fuck with his old, disgusting, bitch-made ass anymore. Excuse me, Jesus. But in the style of Sean Spicer, Fuck. R. Kelly. Period. 

Anyway. Not surprisingly, it’s hot as hell down here! The sun is one thing, close and strong enough to beautifully bronze even the brown-est of us, but this heat should calm to entire fuck down! Let me warn you Black and brown Americans now. We are no longer built for this. Most of us come down here thinking we’re sub-Saharan people and will therefore thrive in a tropical climate. And at one point in our history, this was probably true. I’m sure our ancestors laughed off the climate with midday foot races and futball games. But for those of us who have had our blood diluted by generations of, you know, SLAVERY and all the disgraceful acts that bullshit encompassed, we meet a different fate near this equator, shawty. To my brighter friends, just do your best. And know the sun is absolutely CRAZY down here. Cover up and try to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. You will die.

To that point, at this very moment, I’m actually drying myself off and catching my breath after darting miles across Old, into Centro Habana, and back again to save the life of my travel partner. Seriously, I’m out here doing regular ass Wonder Woman shit in these Havana streets! A series of unfortunate and irresponsible events forced me to take off across town in an attempt to eliminate whatever consequence is bestowed upon those who don’t pay their debts in Havana. I’m actually writing this because in the moments that my legs began to tire, my skin developed heat bumps under the relentless sun, and my shirt became drenched with the sweat pouring from my now noticeably darkened skin, I thought to myself: shout-out to anyone who has ever done something they didn’t want to do, but did anyway without slothfulness or complaint, because shit, getting through it is probably better than the consequence of leaving it undone.

You see, my travel partner and I walked to Old Havana for lunch. No problem there. But have you ever thought to yourself before your bill came, “I hope they got some money, because I only brought a $20 and I’m sure it’s gonna be more than that.” It didn’t take long to realize that my partner hadn’t stuff anything in their pockets before taking off into the city. While I was annoyed, I wasn’t upset, because I should have known better than to not show up overly prepared. It took even less time to realize that I’d be the one who would explain to the restaurant staff the situation and take off to retrieve the additional Cuban Convertible Pesos. I’d also like to point out that I developed a head cold my first night here, probably a result of sleeping directly under an air-conditioning unit. Friends from LA, don’t run off telling Gramps, because you know the elders swear you’ll all but die from sleeping “under that cold air like that.” I’ll literally never hear the end of it. Anyone who has ever suffered through a summer cold will know exactly how miserable and weak the body becomes. It’s pretty yucky.

So here I am, mouth breathing, sweating from all five feet and four inches, and fatiguing quickly as a result of the combined cold, humidity, and my nimble bob and weave. But aye! Shot out to A Tribe Called Sprinters and Coach Crystal Pollard, because chances are, if you can somehow make it through a Tribe workout, you can certainly run a few miles on uneven ground, with a cold, under the Cuban sun, and could probably do it while five months pregnant. If you’re ever in Dallas and wake up convinced that you’d like to experience that thin line of exhaustion and death, join us. It. Is. Nuts. Also, I’m not pregnant. I was just making a point about the benefits of endurance training. Y’all chill out.

Anyway! I’m a fully dressed, Black American woman literally RUNNING through the streets of a foreign country while damn near a fugitive, guilty of aggravated dine and dash. Only I wasn’t all that worried. You see, I’d purposely left my travel partner behind as a hostage for safe keeping until I returned with the additional cash. Honestly, I considered just taking off to explore to city and returning later in the day to pick up my left behind comrade. But you know, friendship is important and shit. Not only that, but I’m kinda built for this. As a young girl, I learned to do things I didn’t feel like doing, simply because they needed to be done. How many of us, without being told, would spring into action to help our mothers cook dinner because you knew she’d had a long day and shouldn’t have to stomach that task alone? How many of us have rerouted to our initial destination to carry grocery bags for our neighborhood elders? And how many of us have emptied our ashtray and bought ice cream for those knuckle-headed kids on the same block you grew up on because someone did it for you and you want them to know that same feeling of being loved and looked after? No one had to tell you to do it, you just knew it needed to be done.

So shout-out to the fathers who quietly evening and weekend side-hustle to save for their graduating senior’s tuition deposit, the older siblings getting up extra early to finish their homework while cooking a hot breakfast for little brothers, and the grandparents who raise the babies of their own world-battered or ill-prepared children. I see y’all at Katy Trail running through the pain, at that job working through exhaustion, in libraries sacrificing social lives, making salads instead of the smothered pork chops, and choosing the hustle over immediate gratification. And y’all do so because, well, it’s what needs to be done at the moment. From one hustler to another, I see you, and I digitally curtsy before you.

So that’s all. I really just wanted to tell that story and say wassup to you aggressive go-getters. Keep moving through this beautiful struggle. Oh! Tyrone is still alive and well. Sitting at a strong 5 figures (I think something like $97K) and still the center of my universe. Well, Tyrone and my furkids. They’re just….perfect. Ok. Bye.


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