Published: July 10th 2008July 7th 2008
Ultra Inclusive and Infinite in Varadero - Part 3: Nice Day for a White Wedding Morning. I get out of bed, and walk to the bathroom. There are mirrors all around. I stand in front of them, transfixed. I can see myself from every angle - every tight, knotted muscle, every sinew, every patch of bright red sun burn. I turn, like a chiselled chicken in an oven. I stretch. I flex a little. My reflection goes on and on, and it never ends; there is never an end to me. I am on-going. I am ever-decreasing. I am infinite.
I believe in taking care of myself, in a balanced diet of alcohol and recreational drugs. I have a vigorous exercise routine. In the late morning, if my face is a little puffy, I'll put on sunglasses whilst addressing my stomach problems. I'm down to twelve movements a day now.
After I'm finished, I use a deep-pore cleansing lotion to wash the stains from my soul. In the shower, I use the hotel Paradisus shower gel, then a honey exfoliating shampoo, and a lot of hot, hot water. Then I apply a citronella-heavy insect repellent, and I choke on the fumes for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine.
I always use a sun block lotion with a factor of fifteen or above because otherwise the sun dries your face out and makes you look older and cancerous. Then moisturiser, anti-red eye drops, followed by a final "protective" layer of facial hair.
There is an idea of a Magic Man, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only a hat, something blue, vivid, and though I can hide my hang dog looks and tired, tired gaze, and you can shake your head at my behaviour, and maybe you can even sense our alcohol tolerance is probably comparable: I simply am not sober yet.
Today is Wednesday. The last couple of days have passed without significant incident. Things have gone on as usual, conforming to steady routine. We wake, heavy with alcohol. We walk to the pool. We lie in the sun. We tan. We eat breakfast in the buffet, we eat lunch at the Italian. We drink cocktails at the pool bar. These are the days of our life. This is how we do it. No fear, no
anger, no hate - there is only ultra-inclusiveness.
Today is Wednesday. Two days before the wedding. Tonight, the stag do. Most people get up early, and leave on a day trip to Havana. I've drunk from that well, and there's no need to quench my thirst again just yet. I spend the day in the hotel; chilling out, maxing, relaxing, all cool. I'm excited about the evening to come. A stag do in Cuba. I night out on the town, away from the tight-hugging walls of the Paradisus. Man, I'm so
fucking excited. This is what it's all about. This is what we came for. The wedding. The joining in holy matrimony of two unspeakably unholy souls.
Bring it on. Bring on the white satin. Bring on the cake. Bring on the fucking clowns and watch them do their stuff whilst we tilt our heads back and down everything in plain sight. Bring on the despicable Venezuelan whores, who flew into town on the night train, fresh from cosmetic re-invention, ciphering off the class, knocking off a star, and dragging us all down to hell as we stand and stare, thankful there isn't that much money in our
Families have arrived by now. Welcome Peter and Sharon Gardiner, founders of the groom. Others may be less welcome, but justice is served in the form of a swift clip round the ear, and the equilibrium is restored. The circle is almost complete. Two fucking days to go.
Everybody arrives back around 7pm. I've been drinking Champagne at some event organised for British guests, so am well on my merry way. We eat dinner, then congregate in the lobby. The plan tonight is to head out at 11.30pm, bound for the Mambo club. Elvis has said that he would join us, but he's nowhere in sight. No doubt, he's busy returning videotapes.
I open my lungs, and suck in the evening air. The feeling is hard to describe. A train is chugging into town, getting closer everyday. The smoke billows on the horizon. The smell of coal fire drifts along in the soft sea breeze. Anticipation is everywhere. Even though I planned to go travelling before I knew about the wedding, it seems as this has been the goal all along. Every place I've been, people have asked where I'm going next. I reel off the
list, always finishing with "Cuba - I'm going to meet my friend for his wedding."
It's as though I've been on a six month mission, and now I'm just days away from completion. If my life was a James Bond movie, this would be the thrilling climax in a hollowed out volcano. Why exactly I'm so excited is difficult to fathom. Weddings are not exactly my thing. In fact, I've only ever been to one, and though I enjoy the drinking and the dancing, I'm not one to blubber and gush. Of course I'm pleased for my friend, and of course I want everyone to enjoy the day and have a good time. All I can think is that I'm excited to be part of something again. This is an event. Everybody has their role. I'm part of a group, united by a common cause, something I haven't been since I left Malaysia three months ago.
This wedding is my Sapa. It's my trekking in the jungle. An experience I can share with other people that builds to a tangible climax, rather than a series of episodic mini-me adventures. So I guess it could be that. Or I
could just be a big gushing homo after all.
The hour rolls by, and our cabs arrive. The full party consists of Barney, Ben, Rick, Tricky, Matt, John (father of the bride) and John's friend Tony. The Mambo Club is a small dance venue a couple of miles down the road. We make our way inside, and position ourselves upstairs, looking out over the dance floor. We drink Crystal beer and tequila, whilst below a live band plays and the Cubans dance.
Once the band is done, we move downstairs. Various drinks are distributed, and somebody hands me a straight shot of white rum. As the flames die down and my husky tones signal my displeasure, we step onto the dance floor. Cubans are great movers - they understand the rhythms of the natural world, and sway with its tones and beats. So when we bring our own fresh style, and bust out the moves, they appear confused. They're never seen dancing like this before. The Running Groom, the Magic Man shuffle, the Rick Flair and the explosive and mildly epileptic Trick Attack - who knew of such things? Is this dancing, performance art, sexual ritual or act
Unable to make up their minds, they slowly back off and observe from a safe distance. We have the floor to ourselves and make the most of it. As I attempt the splits and then pop back up unharmed, I smile to myself. I've now offended people with my dancing and attracted all the wrong kinds of attention in five different countries across the world. I'd be surprised if I'm not discussed at the next meeting of the U.N security council. Maybe even now a sniper is cocking his rifle in the gantries. We really are pissing all over their culture now.
Closing time comes around, and we return to the hotel. We set up shop in the lobby bar, as usual totally empty but for us. John and Tony left us earlier in the evening, and now there are only six that remain. Ben wants his video camera. I volunteer to go get it. As I approach the room, Victoria, younger sister of the bride, appears coming down the steps from the room above. She asks if I've seen her dad. I wrongly assume she means John (rather than her step dad, recipient of aforementioned
slap and in my opinion a dangerous liability).
I tell her he left us a couple of hours ago and came back to the hotel. Victoria looks a little puzzled, but I'm assuming that's just because I'm very drunk. She says she just spoke to her dad on the phone, and he's lying on a bench somewhere. Now I'm puzzled, and concerned. What the fuck is John doing on a bench? He left us in good health, with Tony to look after him, in a state of reasonable sobriety. I shake my head, and promise to keep an eye out for him, and enter my room.
I sneak into the bedroom like a navy seal. Hannah's sleep is not broken as I pick up the camera, and exit. You're damn lucky no one wants you dead, Hannah, because with ninja like skills and a heart as black as coal, you know I'd be the first one they'd send in.
I turn on the camera, and start to film. Does this thing have night vision? Motherfucker. I'm bending down next to a lamp by the side of the path, trying to work out how to operate the camera.
If anyone is watching, it must look like I'm masturbating into the bushes whilst violently cursing . I give up on night vision. Who gives a shit?
As I walk, I give commentary. I explain where we've been and what we've been doing. I tell the world that John is MIA, possibly drunk or stoned on a park bench somewhere in the facility. I point out the pool bar, and the place where we get our towels from. I skilfully navigate my way around the swimming pool and back into the lobby. There, I thrust the camera into everybody's faces, with hilarious and disgusting results.
Ben and Barney force me to rant into the camera, as though I were some rage-infested performing monkey. Then, somebody suggests we go for a swim. Barney appears reluctant but before he can make up his mind, he's pushed in, fully clothed. The rest of us strip down to our very attractive pants. Everyone jumps in, but I want to make a bigger splash - an ultra-inclusive and infinite entrance into the shallow waters. I scale up a palm tree as far as I can go, reminding myself that drunk people get hurt
doing this sort of thing all the time. Luckily, I perform at optimum levels when I've had a drink - I'm far more dangerous sober and wanting.
After the swim, we return to the bar, minus the groom, who shambles off in his wet clothes. We stand in the lobby bar in our pants, dripping. We ask the bar man to take pictures. After a minute, a security guard walks over. He looks pale and in shock. "This is not possible", he says. "What isn't?" I reply. He shakes his head. "This kind of thing is not possible here. You must put on clothes." Fascist! Ultra-inclusive, except for drunken semi-nudity.
We dress. At some point, Matt and Tricky leave. Ben, Rick and I stay for a couple more, and then walk back. As we near our room, a lonely figure hurtles towards us out of the darkness. "Rick, you fucking cunt, I've been up all night waiting!" It's Louise, Rick's substantially shorter other half. She's pretty furious, though it's barely 6am. Rick is led away and Ben and I return to our room.
I can't remember events too clearly, but I think we go out again briefly,
on some mad and pointless quest. By the time I do get to bed, the time is getting close to 7am. I have to be up at eight to go deep sea fishing.
Thursday. One more day to go. I'm leap out of bed at 8am, reinvigorated after one hours sleep. I'm feeling good. Four of us are going deep sea fishing; Barney, Hannah, Gareth and myself. The sun is out, the weather fine, and though the salt water spray stings my already-worn eyes; I'm feeling good. We head out into the ocean, our captain at the wheel, his mate reading the rods for fishing. We all sat at the front of the boat. The boats leaps and bounces over the chop-suey waves, but still, I'm feeling good.
As we get further out, the mate calls out to us, telling us to move around to the back of the boat. We're ready to fish, sitting, anticipating. Suddenly, I don't feel so good. The shift in position has done me a disservice. Now, the hip-hop motion of the ocean is making me queasy, and looking at the groom, I see I'm not the only one. Barney is sitting
on the floor, head hanging half over the side of the boat. He looks like a broken man. If his face was a can of Dulux, it'd be Magnolia.
The other two seem fine and sprightly, but then they weren't out drinking rum until six this morning. Somehow, we battle on. I dig deep to find the spirit of Hemmingway - the old man of the sea would never let it get the better of him like this. Eventually, we get a bite. Barney gets first go at reeling in the sucker. I'm thinking something big, to impress the folks back home. I'm thinking shark, marlin, maybe even whale. Something with teeth as long as my arm and eyes as red as the sun. I'm thinking maneater.
We land the beast, but it's no great white. Still, I'm quite impressed. It's a barracuda, maybe three foot long. Not the worst start.
Hours go by, and I feel no better. Our lines remain slack. No more bites. We stop the boat, and take a break from fishing to snorkel and watch the captain dive for lobster for our lunch. Getting into the water helps settle my stomach, and puts
the break on a situation that was drifting into the danger zone. With a bucket full of lobster, we return to the boat. I avert my eyes as the mate takes to the lobster with a hammer and chisel, and try not to breath in the smell of fresh guts.
I can't stomach lunch, no matter how good people tell me it is. If I take a step inside the boat for even a second, the sickness rises like the Kraken and threatens to swallow me up. As long as I sit in my chair, looking straight out to sea, I can just about keep a handle on it. We turn and head in land, bound for home. Our solitary catch has long since given up the struggle, and lies glassy eyed and open mouthed. At least somebody is in worse shape than me. I close my eyes and drift in and out of the world, until I shout from Barney jolts me awake. He's seen a fin, but it's not a shark. A school of dolphins is following behind the boat. They duck in and out of sight for a while, before we lose them as we near
Thursday evening. The whole party goes for a pre-wedding meal in the Romantica. When we're done, it's back to the lobby bar, before Barney, Ben and myself slink off outside with the video camera. Ben wants to record some "magic" for the uncut wedding DVD. This will be an x-rated, pornographic tirade of harsh language and honest opinion. Only a select very few will be given access codes to these acid-tipped armour piercing missiles.
We sit in one of the Champagne stations and put the world and the Paradisus to rights. There are plenty of good people here, but the place is buckled and heavy under the weight of the bad. Venezuelan drug lords and pimps with their cut whores, Parisian Psycho's, dodgy wheeler-dealers - when I ascend to hell, these fuckers will all be waiting for me, rubbing their hands and sharpening the knives. All I can do is get a few low blows in now. Maybe, if I get through to a couple, they might change their ways and free up a bit of space - make it easier to get a spot in a good area, an apartment next to the Hitlers
or a semi-detached down the road from Genghis Khan. If I'm gonna' burn, I wanna' hot house in a classy neighbourhood, with people of note; these nobody's don't deserve a date with the devil - they'd just be better off left dead, pain and simple.
The camera turns from person to person, and a frog named Elvis sits close by and listens intently. I can tell he's one of the good guys; honest, sincere, the kind of person you can turn to in a crisis. He's worked hard for everything he's got, and he deserves his place on the DVD as much as anyone.
And so here it is. Friday. The waiting is almost over. I head off into town on the bus to sort out a few things, and get back after two. The wedding is at four, so I find Champagne, down a couple of glasses, and pick up three to take back to the room. When I get there, Barney, Ben and Hannah are getting ready. They tell me there's been a couple of complications. One, the wedding was actually meant to be at 3pm, and somehow they got the times wrong. They're now
waiting for us to begin at 3.30, which gives me fifteen minutes to shower, change, make myself handsome and get drunk. The second complication is the rings, which have been locked in the safe. The keys won't work, and an emergency call has been put through to reception to send someone over who can open it. The best man, rather than panic, is recounting the tale to camera.
When I get out of the shower, all is resolved. Everybody is looking very smart. I know I can't match up, but I also know nobody really expected me to turn up with a freshly pressed suit in my backpack. At least, I hope not. I wear old linen trousers I bought in Thailand years ago, my fake Abercrombie and Fitch shirt, sunglasses and, of course, the Magic Man hat.
Everybody rushes down to the wedding gazebo, located just off the beach. We stand inside and wait from the bride. Ben confirms he has the rings. Everything appears in place. The bride is escorted down the aisle looking radiant, and very, very white. The brides maids look hot, the father watches proudly. Video cameras capture every angle, and I swear
the Magic Man hat has a tear in its eye. Barney and Leanne stand together, a few words are said, the rings are produced and the book is signed.
It's done. It's all over. No freak outs, no objections; just simple holy matrimony. They are Ultra-Inclusive. They are married.