(Perceptive Travel December 2010)
A message-in-a-bottle washes ashore in a supposed enemy land—and builds a bridge of friendship.
Photo By Steve Virello
This story starts on a Friday night just before sunset somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean. The year is 2003, the month February, and Sausalito, California-based sailor Rick Hastie is alone at the helm of the First Home, a 54-foot sailboat headed for the Virgin Islands. Rick and his two crewmates have recently cleared the Panama Canal, and in this moment, Rick is steering north toward Jamaica to escape some heavy weather blowing in from the east. He is feeling the solitude of the sea, feeling very far from everyone and everything, and all this makes him remember a promise he’d made to a bartender buddy back home the night before setting sail.
Rick puts the boat on automatic pilot, and he leaves the helm. He heads for the cabin where he retrieves a $43 bottle of Bunnahabhain single malt Scotch whisky—the bartender’s bon voyage present, now polished off. Empty bottle in hand, Rick grabs a piece of paper and a pencil, and he heads back to the helm.
What Rick pens in the cockpit is not the profoundest of posts, but it does fulfill his promise to the bartender. Rick writes: “Whoever finds this is entitled to a bottle of free Bunnahabhain Scotch at the Cat ’N Fiddle.” Rick includes his name and address, the name of his vessel, the date, the longitude and latitude. He rolls his message up and slides it down the slender neck of his green Bunnahabhain bottle. He encases his envoy in electrician’s tape, throws it into an enormous aqua-green wave, and then promptly forgets about it.
Keep reading Message en una Botella at Perceptive Travel.
(Perceptive Travel, July 2006)
While reluctantly becoming a group tour participant in Havana, Lea Aschkenas finds a way to mount her own mini revolution on a bicycle.
When I returned to my hotel late one night at the end of my first week in Havana, I found Amaury, a bellboy I’d befriended the day before, waiting for me in the lobby.
“Lea,” he called out. “I have some important news for you.”
But then as I approached, Amaury put his hand up as if to stop me, rolling his eyes in the direction of one of the overhead lights.
Keep reading Black Market biking at Perceptive Travel.
Traveling Blind (The Pacific Sun, September 27- October 2, 2000)
Early one afternoon in November of 1999, 32-year-old Denise Vancil was walking through the lively Havana neighborhood of el centro, where impromptu baseball games take over the streets, salsa music emanates from the surrounding balconies and the Caribbean Sea, never more than a few blocks away, smacks itself against the malecón sea wall, drenching passersby with its salty spray.
The heels of Denise’s dance shoes clicked out a fast-paced rhythm as her cane tripped along the uneven sidewalk. She walked with two American women from her salsa class, one of whom offered her elbow for support.
. . . keep reading Traveling Blind
Cuba in the Mix (Urban View, August 30 – September 12, 2000)
Oakland native Pablo Menendez came to Cuba from Oakland in 1966 when he was only 14 to study guitar at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA). He planned to stay for just a year but fell in love with the culture and the music and never made it back home. Today, at 47, he’s created a name for himself in the Cuban music scene with his band Mezcla, which he founded in 1985. The word Mezcla (“mix”) describes both the divergent African and Spanish roots of the Cuban culture and the band’s music itself—a blend of rock, reggae, jazz, salsa, son, and merengue. Mezcla has toured Europe and the U.S., stopping off in 1998 for a homecoming performance at Ashkenaz in Berekely. In May, I met up with Menendez in his second-story flat in the seaside Havana neighborhood of Miramar to talk about Cuban music, politics, and solidarity.
. . . keep reading Cuba in the Mix
Elian custody battle not the first international dispute over Cuban children
by Lea Aschkenas – MediaFile, November/December 2000
Operation Peter Pan, as it was named by the U.S. government, is the story of 14,000 Cuban children who, between 1960 and 1962, were brought to the United States by Catholic organizations funded by the U.S. State Department. They were helped by oil companies and other U.S. corporations that were kicked out of Cuba following the 1959 revolution, which brought Fidel Castro to power. To encourage Cubans to move to the United States, the Catholics offered to save their children from communism by setting them up with scholarships at U.S. schools and caring for them until their parents could join them.
. . . keep reading Operation Peter Pan