February 11, Monday: Off to Havana

Editor’s Note:

This blog is being posted more than a week later than it happened.  For many reasons, I wasn’t able to post in real time from Havana.  In fact, I wasn’t even able to write in real time.  So treat this as a memoir, or treatise, written in the fullness of time and with the limitations of memory.


The Bassman

Got up at 4:00 am.


Up in the morning, just about 4:00 (1), February 2019

Called for an Uber at 4:45 am.

At JFK Terminal 5 at 5:40 am.

Through check-in and security by 6:00 am, complete with my boarding pass, Cuban visa and proof of medical insurance stamped on the boarding pass.

Finished a leisurely breakfast by 7:00 am. By airport restaurant standards, not merely leisurely – I basically encamped in the restaurant until I was bored enough to leave. The service was lovely, I have to say.

Sauntered down to the gate to check it out for the 9:06 am departure. Yup, it’s there. No plane at the gate yet, but that’s not unexpected – we don’t board for 90 minutes yet. Took a walk around Terminal 5, which seems to be about 3/4 of a mile. Okay, I can do this a couple of times while I wait.

Called Sally at 8:00 am. Fortunately, she wasn’t wakened by my getting ready this morning (last night?). As we were chatting, got an alert that my flight is delayed to until 10:30 am. Arggghhh! I was psychologically prepared for killing an hour; killing 2 1/2 is a horse of a different color.

Sit for a while near the gate, then do a couple more laps around the terminal. Come back and sit again, and watch as the ground crew tows a plane over at 9:00 am. Progress!

Watch the crew board at 9:30 am. The gate attendant excitedly announces their arrival, suggesting that departure can now be forecast.

Start pre-boarding (2) at 10:00 am. As usual, there are a few people who don’t “understand” the procedure and try to board with the people with young children, or the people in wheelchairs. They are politely shoo’d away by the staff.

I flaunt my privilege by boarding in Group A, the first group that isn’t pre-boarded. I also got to sit in an Even More Space seat. I paid for this privilege, $30 I think.

(Yes, I know you’re getting bored.  I was bored, too.)

This is a smallish plane, about 100 seats in a 2+2 configuration. That means the overheads are unusually small; my suitcase fits only sideways. A number of passengers seem to have the spatial relationship skills of a toddler, as they insist on trying to fit bags that have no possibility of fitting into the overheads. They struggle; the bags are by definition pretty heavy (because they are big) and they try them in each orientation. But each one of those orientations exposes a dimension that is too big by half for the height or depth of the overhead. They finally give up, and the bag gets passed up to the front of the plane past everyone who is standing and waiting for this adult-sized toddler to give up trying to fit the giant square block into the small triangular hole. The cabin crew passes the bag off to someone who might be putting it into the luggage hold, but who knows?


Even More Space, February 2019

As we board, I sit alone in my Even More Space seat. There are three rows of 4 such seats and I am alone. Other passengers notice this vacuum and rush to fill the void. One of the attendants comes by with a credit card machine and tells them they have to pay. They return to their assigned places, but then one comes back a few minutes later to try again. He gets chased again (3).

We depart at 10:20 am, about 1:15 late. According to the captain, we should arrive around 1:45 pm, only 30 minutes late. Are they flying faster? Was there less ground traffic than expected at JFK? Is there fluff in the published schedules so they can claim better on-time rates? Hmmm ….

Time passes ….

Later that afternoon I meet up with my group at the hotel and we take a stroll down La Prado, a wide boulevard with a raised pedestrian mall in the middle.  The weather is warm and humid (my favorites!), and people are enjoying it.

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I don’t care what you say, it’s too damn hot, February 2019

La Prado ends at the sea by start of the Malecón, a five mile esplanade and seawall along the coast.  Again, people are out enjoying themselves.



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Kids by the sea, February 2019


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The Captain and Tennille?, February 2019

Finally we return to the hotel and have a pleasant dinner by the rooftop pool.

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View from the Hotel Parque Central, February 2019

(1) Apologies to Spanky and Our Gang’s song Commercial

(2) This makes no semantic sense. A person getting on the plane is “boarding”. “Pre-boarding” could mean getting your stuff together in anticipation of boarding, or having your boarding pass and ID checked at the gate, or any number of other things that you do before you board. But it shouldn’t mean “the group of people who get to board first.”

(3) This all reminds me of sneaking down from the nosebleed to the box seats at a Mets game as a kid. We hoped the ushers either wouldn’t notice us, or (more likely) wouldn’t care. It worked sometimes. JetBlue is more obsessed with revenue than the Mets were, I guess.

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