I won't lie to you. I'm still hungover. I've been home for more than 75 hours and I can't even fathom consuming an adult beverage at this point. It was that kind of a week.
You'll have to forgive me if some of the details are fuzzy, or if the sequence of events doesn't follow the appropriate linear time compendium, or if the anecdotes fail to make any logical sense whatsoever. But the fact is, I was monumentally inebriated for the vast majority of my time spent on that quaint little communist island. Another disclaimer is that the photos should really be better, but when you mix 24-hour complimentary bar service with close proximity to water, I didn't exactly feel at ease with my camera by my side. It might have been a different story if I'd have had a fanny pack or something, but that's simply not how I roll.
(Also, my girlfriend took the liberty of erasing some of the shots she was less-than-satisfied-with, with neither my knowledge nor my consent... And there may or may not have been multiple snaps of male genetalia that needed to be discarded before arriving at the airport, quickly putting an end to the once promising "Guess Those Nuts!" segment on seanmccallum.com) If you need more candid shots, I'm sure they can be found on facebook. But again, that's not how I roll. My apologies.
The trip began with my alarm going off at 3 o'clock in the morning on Friday after a satisfying 45-minutes of slumber. D-Hibb and V picked up myself and Sandra with Ronnie already in tow, and we hammered back a couple of Red Bulls sans Vodka on the way to the airport. I wanted to kill myself as soon as we got there, but polishing off a Starbucks coffee seemed to help matters. We boarded the world's most uncomfortable airplane which instantly left me longing for the comforts of Peruvian bus travel, and just when I thought that things couldn't get any worse, some kid puked on me. Yeah, that's right. I guess she was making a B-line for the bathroom but decided that my hair would suit her just as well. I tried convincing myself that it was good luck, the same way people try to convince you that a bird crapping on you is a good thing (complete bullshit - what could be more unlucky than having a bird shit on you?), but I wasn't buying it. Luckily, I was going on 45 minutes sleep, so I shut'er down in the aisle seat almost immediately after takeoff, only to be awoken every 10 minutes by having my leg repeatedly rammed by the oblivious flight attendant's beverage cart, all of this whilst breathing in the spring-fresh aroma of bile in my lettuce. Good times.
We arrived in the blistering heat of the Cuban morning sometime after 10, and life was good for everyone but Tony the Wedding Photographer, who I'm pretty sure had to undergo a full cavity search when the Cuban officials caught a glimpse of his camera equipment. And then there was Wayne, the only true brother in the crew, who was questioned incessantly because... well, because he's black. For some reason I thought that racism didn't span all the way to Communist regimes (the whole business of a classless, stateless social organization and all...), but I guess bigotry knows no policital bounds.
In any event, we eventually made it to the resort and immediately began systematcially dismembering the bar. I mean, it was pretty impressive. Combine the fact that most people were going on less than four hours sleep, and it was a disaster waiting to happen. The swim-up bar didn't stand a chance, and by 3:30 in the afternoon we were tossing the pigskin around the joint (Leeroy took one clean off the lid while ordering a Mojito - one of the funniest things I've ever seen) much to the disgust of every civilized person sitting poolside, offending every walk of life with our incessant drunken belligerence, nearly coming to fisticuffs with a number of speedo-clad Europeans, and then watching in abject horror as the groom-to-be stood above the swim-up bar, unleashed his soon-to-be-wed man-meat, and inconceivably pissed into the pool... It was the gongshow to end all afternoon gongshows, and I found myself wondering whether or not a group of 46 had ever been kicked out of an all-inclusive Cuban resort less than six hours after arrival... But Phatty soon put my mind at ease by rationalizing: "We're 1/3 of the people here. We have every right to have a good time."
What can I say? We roll thick.
By 6:30 that night, there were only four soldiers left standing, and as myself, Ronnie, D-Hibb, and Rich sat around the poolside bar single-handedly murdering a bottle of Vodka sans mix, chaser, or glasses for that matter (the bottle was The Bomber's prize for winning the "Mr. Macho Man Competition" a few hours earlier - as if there were ever any doubt), we found ourselves wondering just how the fuck we were supposed to last until 7:30, at which time the dinner buffet allegedly opened. I went back to the room to wake Sandra from her siesta, and we somehow made it down to the buffet where, according to outsiders reports, our behaviour was nothing short of "mortifying" (Sandra's words). I can't say I remember all that much except for Ronnie bellowing his own name like some kind of an amplified tourettes patient and the fact that Mabes astonishingly showed up for dinner so she could bring her dead-to-the-world husband back a few slices of bread; but what I do know is that every single one of the White Oaks graduating class of 1997 was sound asleep by 9pm on our first night in Cuba. Way to represent.
The next day, and all of the ensuing days for that matter, went a little something like this (when you don't leave the resort for 7 days and there are massive quantities of alcohol involved, the daytime hours tend to take on a "melting-into-one" type of feeling):
- Wake up in time for breakfast... Well, this is a lie. Sometimes I made it in time for breakfast. The other times I slept until noon, rationalizing that my fair Irish skin couldn't handle an entire days-worth of rays. But on the first morning, I definitely made it down in time for breakfast.
- Eat an omlette and drink some orange juice. On the mornings they had hashbrowns, scarf as many back as humanly possible.
- Grab a cappucino and sit by the pool. And then go to the beach. And then maybe wander back to the pool for awhile. Drink numerous Pina Coladas con Havana Club negro. Try not to get busted looking at topless sunbathers. Eat a sandwich of dubious origins. Switch from pina coladas to cervezas (The Cristal was fantastic. The Bucanero wasn't half-bad... What the hell am I talking about? I would have been knocking back Milwaukee's Bests if they'd handed them to me at that point). Participate in the volleyball game in the pool. Make an inappropriate remark about men wearing banana hammocks. Head back to the room for a siesta as the sun sets.
And this was pretty well the way each day went. We played the WOSS version of the alumni football game on the beach one day, where the D-Hibb to yours truly combo made the Brady-Moss tandem seem more like Vick-PETA... To use the term-du-jour: we simply imposed our will upon the opposition. It was nothing short of sheer dominance.
On another afternoon, we wandered down the beach to this fantastic little hut that served fresh grilled lobster tail as a self-taught local musician played guitar for us... It was quite delightful. But other than that, it was essentially the same thing everyday. Cayo Guillermo is located in the middle of nowhere, and while I usually like to head into some kind of a town in a futile attempt to soak in some of the local culture, we were literally stuck at the resort for the entire week... not that that's necessarily anything to complain about, but still: I wish there was more I could tell you about Cuba, other than the fact that Cubans have a difficult time acquiring Rawlings baseball mitts (one of the guys there said that he'd trade us anything for our gloves: Rum, Cigars, Women... you name it, and it's yours. So just as a sidenote: if you're heading to Cuba, bring some spare ball gloves. It will probably be worth your while). So needless to say, I will be heading to Havana for a four-day jaunt in the not-too-distant future, because what I did see of the Cuban culture (mainly, the music) was enough to whet my sociological whistle... And the cigars aren't too shabby either.
And then there were the Cuban nights. Like I said, we didn't get to see too much of the first night, but we more than made up for it in the ensuing evening hours. We spent most of our second night at the resort's disco where Phatty took over on the turntables with his impeccable taste in house and jungle... if you're into that. Apparently one of the Frenchmen in attendance was into that, because at one point he grabbed Phatty by the arm and forcefully took him outside. Naturally, we all assumed that the groom-to-be had gotten a little carried away with his camera and had taken an ill-advised snap of this dude's lady friend, so a large contingent of us followed the two of them outside, bracing ourselves for some kind of an international incident that would surely land us in Guantanamo Bay or some other such accomodations for an extended stay (I was doing crowd control inside... if by crowd control you mean ordering another cerveza and watching from the safety of the bar). In any event, what this French dude said to Phatty, believe it or not, was that he simply LOVED Phatty's taste in music, and that he was begging him to impart exactly where he had procured such astonishing beats. This was about the last thing I would have ever expected to come from that exchange. Too funny.
There may or may not have been some photos taken with various people in uncompromising positions (most notably, there may be a shot circulating somewhere with the groom-to-be burying his face in a mouthful of my billowing chest hair/dead squirrel, but you didn't hear it from me). I have no idea how this night ended. It may have been the Maggie May night, or it may not have been.
In case it wasn't, the following night ended in the most ridiculous fashion possible. The last three awake were D-Hibb, Phatty's Aunt Maggie (a saint of a woman from jolly old England), and myself. After countless beverages at the 24-hour lobby bar, D-Hibb and I ended up escorting the lovely Aunt Maggie back to her room. It turns out we'd all had more than a few too many, and it took us a good half-hour to get Maggie May back to her dwelling; partly because we were having a difficult time standing up, but mostly because Maggie took us to the wrong building not once, but twice... I'm not talking about walking down the hallway and putting her key in the wrong door; I'm talking about taking us up three flights of stairs before realizing we were in the wrong structure. Absolutely classic. Along the way, she extinguished her cigarette and D-Hibb and I made damn sure it was exterminated, spitting on it, pissing on it, and eventually leaving it for dead in somewhere in the Cuban night... At the time, it was the funniest thing since we moved Skeeter's parents' entire living room furniture set outside so we could watch TV under the stars back in the 12th grade, but today? Not quite so funny. The night concluded with D-Hibb and I stopping into the lobby bar for one last belt (a shot of 7-year old dark rum for me, and a quadruple Bailey's con hielo for D-Hibb), where we were sent on our way with just about the most racially offensive words these ears have ever absorbed. Obviously I can't repeat it verbatim, but let's just say that it had something to do with the bartender insinuating that I was going back to my room where I would be repeatedly sodomized by my boyfriend who just happened to be a (insert-every-unrepeatable-racial-slur-you've-ever-encountered here). We were unmitigatedly stunned. And believe me, to offend the likes of D-Hibb and me, you really have to go above and beyond. Again, naively, I just never expected it in a socialist state.
On one of the other nights, some English dude challenged D-Hibb to what essentially amounted to a Vodka drinking contest (they somehow came to the conclusion that they were both of Polish descent), and the two of them hammered back at least 8 triple shots of straight Vodka from wine-glass-looking goblets. I have no idea how D-Hibb was standing by the end of the night, but he managed to outlast both myself, and the guy who had challenged him (Ronnie ended up helping to drag the lifeless carcass of the guy back to his room, and in the midst of it, this dude apparently experienced a... how shall we say... loose bowel accident? I guess Ronnie was in the middle of leaning in close to help pick this guy up, and he could only describe the sound as that which comes from stepping into the wet mud on the outskirts of a swamp... Ugghh... In any event, Ronnie pretty much caught a mouthful of the fetid stench and puked instantaneously. Thank the baby Jesus I had already turned it in for the night). Also, as a side note, the loser of the Vodka drinking contest was supposed to fly to Havana the following morning, but needless to say, he didn't make his flight. In fact, it turned out he needed to seek medical attention, prompting D-Hibb to coin the phrase: "If you're gonna drink with D-Hibb, you can expect to go to the medic". Happy to see we're maturing gracefully as we round out our 20's.
Wednesday afternoon marked the wedding of Phatty and Liz; the future Mr. and Mrs. Withall. The ceremony was originally slated to take place on the pier which extended half a mile out into the ocean, but apparently there was some big tropical storm that rolled through a few weeks prior, rendering the pier pretty well unusable. No worries. The ceremony ended up being held in one of the gazebos on the lush, natural grounds of that beautiful tropical resort; hey, a couple could do worse. They had a pretty killer Cuban jazz outfit pumping out the tunes before and after, and the ceremony was short and sweet, just the way it should be. Liz looked absolutely stunning, and Phatty was looking totally money in his Miami Vice-worthy white linens.
The one thing I was worried about throughout the wedding was the fact that the ceremony was conducted in the Cuban fashion and under all of the Cuban laws, and all of the vows stressed how marriage involved sharing everything equally just like they did here in Cuba... which got me to thinking... wait a minute? Does that mean marriage in general and this wedding in particular is just another means of enrolling yourself to the communist state? Is marriang anti-American? Would George W. be invading their hotel room on the honeymoon in order to liberate them? And will Phatty and Liz be banished from the U.S. because they were married under Cuban law?... Just a few of the thoughts that were running through my head as Sandra cried over the beauty of the ceremony and the romantic nature of love in general.
The speeches at the reception were top-notch, highlighted by Skeeter almost having his eyes become sweaty in the middle of his address, and Phatty's 13-year old niece talking about how much she looked up to her Uncle Phil. It was really quite touching. We ended up smoking some fat Cohibas after dinner and then heading out to the disco, but not before I ended up having to take Sandra up to the room to put her to bed. She wasn't too keen on the idea, and despite the fact that she really couldn't stand up, she was determined to make it down to the reception. The next thing I knew, she was passed out in the hallway in nothing but a bedsheet. I have no idea how this happened, but it was just that kind of night.
When I eventually made it back down to the party, bedlam had pretty well ensued. I wouldn't have remembered anything had it not been for the fact that I actually had my camera with me. Apparently Sweet Nate caught the garter, and as is the custom, he wore it on his head like a hat for the rest of the night. There was also some killer dancing going on, as well as a guest appearance by none other than the Toronto Raptor's own Andrea Bargnani. There were also multiple shots of tequila, instigated by Phatty's uncle Stew. Again, I'm not really certain how this night ended, but I do recall having some serious heart-to-heart conversations with two of Phatty's other uncles (Steve and Mike, if I recall correctly). They were great lads, and they may have even invited me over to England so they could take me for a tour of Stonehenge and to sit in a few wee pubs. Unfortunately for them, I just may take them up on it.
Some of the other highlights from the week included: smoking Cohibas (the $18 Esplendido I smoked on the last night pretty well killed me. Is it possible to O.D. on cigars?); watching The Bomber fall in love with one of the dancers from the nightly show; listening to the Cuban music (despite the fact that we only got a tiny sampling, it has a certain vibe that you can't help but groove to - again, can't wait to hit up Havana for a true representation of this country's culture); the pina coladas con Havana Club negro at the swim-up bar. Really, what more could you want in a vacation?
Lowlight? Some low-life pervert parading around outside our room in nothing but a leopard-print G-string. Honestly. Who wears that?
All in all, it was a fantatastic week. I would be remiss if I didn't thank the ladies, or as I like to call them: The White-Oaks-in-laws. You are all a bunch of sweethearts for putting up with us while we relived our glory years with countless highly-entertaining-yet-somehow-still-pertinently-relevent high school glory stories. And thanks of course to Phatty and Liz for allowing us the opportunity to share in your wedding day. It's a week that neither I nor my liver will ever forget.