LIVING FOR THE WEEKEND

by: Valerie Fraling Special to the AFRO
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“Hang on to the world as it spins around just don’t let the spin get you down. Think of moving fast hold on tight and you will last. Give your self-respect, your manly pride. Get yourself in gear keep your stride. Never mind your fears brighter days will soon be here. Take it from me; someday we’ll all be free, yeah.” Donny Hathaway

My recent trip to Cuba in the words of my friend Murnell Cooper was, “A trip of a lifetime,” from the moment I landed at the Havana airport until my return home it was “simply beautiful”.  From a child watching “I love Lucy” to later years watching “The Godfather,” and “Scarface” I was intrigued with Cuba. Perhaps it was because we could not visit Cuba that piqued my desire to visit this beautiful forbidden island to sip Cuban coffee, drink Cuban rum while smoking a Cuban cigar on the beach. Therefore, when Anthony Jones said, “Do you want to go to Cuba?” without hesitating, I was booked on southwest preparing for a trip of a lifetime.

Everyone was so gracious and accommodating from our personal housekeeper at the magnificent two story 15-16th floor penthouse where we stayed located next door to the American Embassy and Hotel Nacional de Cuba facing the Atlantic Ocean on Malecon Boulevard. Our penthouse featured wall-to-wall windows allowing us to sit and gaze out the windows, watching the cruise ships sail by to their next destination until they disappeared “beyond the sea.” Our taxi drivers became our personal escorts as we travelled throughout Cuba in their convertible cars, passed down from generation to generation with pride and honor. After a few days in the convertible, the luxury of an air-conditioned cab became the mode of transportation. I must say I was surprised at how advanced Cuba was in transportation, architecture and traffic signals. Our dinner at the exclusive La Guarida Restaurant, located in a once opulent mansion where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michele Obama, Jay-Z and Beyoncé dined was on the top floor of a building with only two floors.The rest was open space with magnificent crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling reminiscent of grander days and parties. I gingerly climbed six flights of the crumbling winding marble staircase in a building that resembled the Greek ruins, to an art filled roof top restaurant overlooking Old Havana and a beautiful night sky perfumed with the fragrance of the city. The lobster dish over rice with a cream sauce was awesomely delicious as was all the meals we ate while in Cuba. We enjoyed the beautiful beaches, Cuban jazz at the local clubs, lunch at The Saratoga and cocktails at The Nacional Hotel. And we had the most amazing breakfast prepared by our housekeeper each morning featuring the fresh native fruits and juices, eggs, toast and coffee.

“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go, to right the unrightable wrong, to love pure and chaste from afar…” Man of La Mancha

“The world is a ghetto” DJ Al Jefferson, once said that he didn’t know he grew up in the ghetto until he became an adult and someone said, “Man, you lived in the ghetto.” That’s my view on Cuban natives, they live together in huddles on small crowded streets surrounded with hidden wealth in museums, restaurants and homes with streets crowded with people all night. Because, it’s cooler to be outside than in their homes seeking relief from the oppressive heat. Yet, everyone you saw offered you a welcoming smile.

“We’ve removed the ceiling above our dreams. There are no more impossible dreams.” Jesse Jackson

My trip was indeed a once in a lifetime experience and I hope to return to Cuba without the sanctions that have once again been imposed, because the only thing missing from Cuba is the United States. Other countries fly in daily from around the world to visit the island forbidden to Americans. Thanks President Obama for making my “dream come true” and the Cubans love you.

“Here we are on earth together, it’s you and I God has made us fall in love, it’s true I’ve really found someone like you. Will it say the love you feel for me, will it say that you will be by my side to see me through until my life is through. Well, in my mind, we can conquer the world. In love, you and I… Stevie Wonder

Wishing a happy anniversary to Cordell “Corky” and Deleanor Boone and sending congratulations to Colin’s Restaurant owners Dante and Candes Daniels as they celebrate the fourth anniversary of Colin’s opening. The community thanks you for bringing great dining to Randallstown.

Happy birthday to Nellie Brown, James “Dickey” Harris, Jean Powell and Berice Bogans. Celebration time come on!

Looking for a happening spot with great food? Check out the new Pargo’s and my friend owner Konan on Caton Ave., off 95N for happy hour or Saturday brunch featuring sweet potato French toast. A great place to watch the games or just chill with friends as Auvea Fortune, Berice Bogans and I did while enjoying special cocktails, wings, roast turkey, crab sliders and more.

Stop passed the 4700 block of York Road for a new dining experience in the northeast area of Baltimore at Flight Restaurant and say hello to owner Ray Davis. Then, go across the street to Nailah’s Senegalese Restaurant featuring authentic African and American cuisine.

What’s happening?

Coppin State University’s Sunday Jazz series at the Forum featuring world-renowned saxophonist Carlos Johnson, October 29. For tickets, call “Winky” Camphor at 443-850-4582 or Almie McIntyre 410-340-4720.

“I’ll be seeing you”… A luta continua!

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