I never assumed landing a plane on Fidel Castro’s ocean front mansion
would’ve kept me from being expelled from college.
As a senior at a private Florida college, my
professor of Cuban Studies had threatened me with expulsion because
I failed all his exams. Despite my pleas he wouldn’t relent. So, I proposed
that if he wouldn’t fail me, I ‘d write a report explaining the secret
to Fidel Castro’s political stamina. He agreed, after peeling me off
his back like a wet overcoat. His enthusiasm surprised me, since he
rejected my previous paper titled, “The Cuban Cigar: Why it goes better
with red wine.”
Walking out the door, my enthusiasm waned. How
could I write a paper explaining how one individual has held onto power
longer than eight U.S. Presidents?
A day later I saw a hundred Cuban-American activists
marching on campus shouting anti-Castro slogans. Agonizingly, I decided
to skip my physics class to have a talk with these extremists.
I tried probing their thoughts for information
about the dictator. All I heard were Spanish swear words punctuated
with , “El Diablo!” I learned a few flew harassment missions over Cuban
airspace. With the same technique I used on my professor I convinced
them to allow me to fly on one of their missions. The only difference
is they needed a crowbar to peel me off their backs.
What a reference! What tenured professor could
claim they flew over communist airspace to gather research?
As we took off in the plane, I saw my hopes of
academic survival lift off through white mists of cob-webbed clouds.
My guide, a Mr. Rodrigo Rodriguez carried a backpack filled with leaflets
to drop on the island country. He started chanting the phrase, “El Diablo!
El Diablo!” like some indigenous war cry. The pilot, a Mr. Julio Lopez,
was a more stoic individual, who likewise hated Mr. Castro, and judging
by the jerking motions of the plane, despised flight school just as
Before I became airsick we saw the meandering
island. Rodriguez grabbed a handful of leaflets tossing them out the
window. They fell , scattering like oak leaves during the Fall.
Suddenly I heard the sound of flying metal through
the air. Looking out the window, I saw a Cuban MIG passing by. And then
another, streaking faster!
“Don’t worry, they’re just trying to scare us!,”
said Mr. Rodriguez. Seconds later one plane fired its machine guns,
hitting the plane in the back, sending smoke in all directions. We spun
out of control.
Lopez regained control; we were horizontal, headed
inland . Through the radio we heard the Communist pilots celebrating.
I could pick up the cheers of the two airmen with the sound of salsa
music in the background. One screamed, “Cojones! Tenemos Cojones!”
Our break- neck speed was cushioned by a strong
gust of a sea breeze which caused the plane to lift about 300 feet from
the ground. Like a wounded butterfly, we glided a few hundred yards
before landing on the top of a flat-roofed mansion. Our cheers and back
slapping soon ceased when we realized only one person in Cuba who could
afford a house that large.
We looked down 20 yards below us. There he lay,
next to his swimming pool; lounging back in his beach chair, a cigar
just fallen from his mouth. A margarita in his left hand, and wearing
nothing but a pair of ghastly looking yellowish-green Bermuda shorts
which made us all throw up.
After being interrogated for hours, I became
singled out from my fellow co-defendants. I soon found out why as I
was thrown the dictator’s office. I tried convincing him I had no hostile
intentions. I told him I only needed information on why he had been
able to stay in power so long. No doubt, I pleaded, because of his good
looks and hip fashion style.
I was immediately forearmed in the back of the
head by his chief of security General Juan Valdez Cohiba Ruiz. Puffing
on his cigar, the dictator explained to me that his propaganda minister
had worked out a plan to exploit my all-American blonde hair blue-eyed
looks to the world. Remembering the story of their young Cuban boy who
had been rescued off the shore of Florida, they hatched a plan. They
would use me as a pawn to promote their pro-communist views. They made
up a tale of how I was rescued at sea while my mother and I were trying
to escape Florida to live in Marxist Cuba.
As for my two partners, their looks proved useless,
they were put to work harvesting tobacco leaves for 16 hours a day.
For weeks they would languish in the hot sun, muttering “El Diablo,
The staged propaganda stunt did not go off without
a hitch. They first published in their newspapers that a 22- year- old
“boy” was found by a Cuban fisherman drifting in a inner tube. “His
mother is feared dead, but the boy said his mother’s goal was to bring
him to Cuba in order to live in a country that would preserve her Communist
principals,” the article stated. They announced I would be living in
the custody of a man they stated was my 23rd cousin’s 5th uncle.
To film footage of me being rescued they drove
me to the ocean. The General along with several soldiers began to dunk
my head in the water. After coughing up seaweed , I complained I had
salt water between my ears. So the General dislodged it with a few more
forearms into the back of my head. They ordered a local fisherman to
drag my obliterated frame out of the waters. The announcer for the film
crew described the rescue. He spoke in Spanish and then began dubbing
in the English translations, saying, “And here we see the young boy
being rescued from the accident. He is now in a place that will look
after his needs. A land of prosperity. A land that doesn’t have soldiers
who forearm you in the back of the head, or force you to harvest tobacco
for sixteen hours a day.”
I felt a little dizzy due to the salt water lodged
into my brain so I can’t tell you with accuracy how my staged interview
with Dan Rather went. The Dictator thought it would show the world my
stay was of my free will. Via satellite, I sat in a dark room with General
Ruiz out of camera sight, to the left, with his forearm cocked in a
The first question Rather asked was how was I
doing. Obviously I have to tell him I’ve never been better. Looking
into the camera he inquires, “Is it possible you are being coerced by
the Cuban regime to make false statements?” I looked into the camera
saying, “Of course not.” ( I couldn’t believe this wooden Indian could
even suggest there was the slightest chance I wanted to be there.)
He started showed clips the propagandists took
of me at, “Cuban Disneyland.” They remembered how the little boy was
spoiled at Disney World, so they thought it would be beneficial to do
the same. The only problem; they didn’t have any amusement parks in
Cuba. So they put me in an inflatable raft, inside a sewer tunnel, claiming
I was on the, “It’s a Small World” ride. Even more humiliating they
couldn’t find any Mickey Mouse costumes so they took a dead five foot
sewer rat, hung it off a meat hook, and made me pose with it, trying
to pass it off as the mascot.
“I must say, Mr. Banks, that photo of you in
the raft looks suspicious.”, Mr. Rather suggested. “Oh really, in what
way?” I asked. He responded, “It doesn’t look like you’re at Disneyland.
It appears you’re in a sewer tunnel.”
“I’m having the time of my life.”
“That tunnel looks way too dark.”
“That’s because they deregulated the electrical
industry, they’ve been having problems.”
“When did they do that, Mr. Banks?”
“But Mr. Banks there seems to be no water in
the tunnel either.”
“They deregulated that also.”
He then flashed the photo with the rat. “Surely
Mr. Banks you can’t claim to say this is Mickey Mouse.”
“Why would you doubt it?”
“It looks like a dead sewer rat.”
“Oh, I think he just drank too much tequila that
“Mr. Banks. Could it be possible that you were
a passenger on that plane that was shot down, and not someone who was
trying to seek asylum here with your oppressed mother?”
“Dan. I’m here on my own free will.”
(Of course I’m being forced against my will you
“You claim your mother drifted away during a
hurricane towards the South Pole. However, I recently spoke with a woman
who claimed she was your mother. She showed authentic documentation.
And she also wanted me to say that she wants you to bring back that
Beamer you borrowed for Spring break.”
“Sir, that’s impossible, the last time I saw
my mother she was in an inner tube on a hundred foot tidal wave. Unless,
you interviewed her at Antarctica.”
“Mr. Banks, I have to sign off, but I have one
more message from your Cuban studies professor. He wanted me to tell
you in light of your present situation, he is considering giving you
a pass/no pass option for your class.”
He went off the air. Despite the fact I did everything
right General Ruiz decided to give me a couple more forearms to the
back of the head. The next day he dragged me into the dictators office.
His reports showed the propaganda stunt did not even convince our current
President, which says a lot. On his wide screen television the President
of the United States gave a speech to the Cuban government. After stumbling
with his words for two minutes he said, “This is not about cojones.
This is about shooting down a civilian aircraft. And detaining an American
citizen, along with two registered voters. Errr....ahh...I mean detaining
three American citizens.” Most people felt the President showed a lot
of authority during this speech, the only problem was that he was sitting
on his dads lap when he made is comments.
The Dictator screamed, “Why can’t people believe
someone would want to live here! Look at the beautiful landscape! The
nice warm weather!” He pulled off his shirt revealing his tan. (I prayed
he wouldn’t unbutton his pants to reveal those ugly Bermuda shorts.
My prayer went unanswered.)
General Ruiz interjected, “I told you we should
have launched him off SCUD Missile and said he’s on the Space Mountain
Ride.” “That’s too expensive.” the dictator replied.
He paced around his stiff oak desk with a lit
Montecristo #2. He brought me to the window overlooking a thousand acre
tobacco plantation. “So you wanted to write thesis on why I’ve been
here so long?” he enquired. Pointing to Rodriguez and Lopez who were
in the field straining in agony, lifting bales of tobacco he explained,
“There’s your answer. See how happy they are.”
“Yeah they look like they won the lottery.” I
replied. The dictator explained, “They’re happy because they’re being
told what to do. They’ve been out there for a week, and they only complained
once. And that was about food.”
I asked, “So they don’t like the food your giving
them?” General Ruiz forearmed me across the head, sending the spit spraying
from my mouth like a defective shotgun. “No idiot! They would like to
The dictator brought his face within inches of
mine, puffing a giant cloud of Montecristo in my face. He lectured,
“Senor Banks, you made big mistake coming here.” Holding the cigar in
his hand he suggested, “You should have done your paper on why this
goes better with red wine.”
I tried explaining that our armed forces would
be sent in . The dictator scoffed, “Your military is a joke.” He produced
a scrapbook filled with headlines of military disasters. He pointed
to headlines of an accidental embassy bombing, explosions on Naval ships,
pilots crash landing, etc. The Dictator laughed, “With enemies like
this who needs friends!”
He came in close and blew another cloud in my
face saying, “We don’t fear your people. Let me tell you secret, half
the rifles soldiers carry have no bullets.” He pulled out a box of obtuse
cigars, “Now you know what we do with our rejects.”
General Ruiz pulled out a article about the submarine
that recently sunk the fishing boat off the coast of Hawaii and said,
“Now here’s one I don’t believe. It must be some trick. I know your
military is incompetent, but this is ridiculous.”
The dictator received a report from the propaganda
minister on his phone. Minutes later he said, “Senor Banks, I know the
problem. Our film needs to be more authentic.
The next day they decided to create a more accurate
made for DVD re-enactment. They still used the dead rat, but put a cigar
in its mouth and dressed it up with a pair of the dictator’s Bermuda
The footage at sea would be more difficult. They
put me on a forty foot boat, with a dozen soldiers. Before we sailed
the Dictator gave the General a pat on the back, and blew another cloud
of Montecristo in my face.
Ruiz ordered the boat to stop 2 miles off the
coast and unlocked my shackles. He then lectured me on how pathetic
the U.S. armed forces were. He grinned saying, “After film becomes success
we have no need for you. You may join friends harvesting tobacco. You
look stronger, maybe you work for eighteen hours instead sixteen.”
“Thanks, it gets hot out there in those fields.
Do you think your boss can loan me a pair of his Bermuda shorts?”
I saw his anger. So before he had the chance
I beat him to it and forearmed myself in the back of the head. He instead
gave me a left hook to the abdomen. Knocking me to the floor. He pulled
out a revolver. I knew I never should’ve insulted the Bermuda shorts.
I felt the boat violently shake. The crew screamed,
“Vamanos! Vamanos!” Then something emerged from the water knocking the
boat over, sending everyone into the ocean. Coughing up seaweed, I saw
a black-gray nuclear-powered submarine, rising in a vibrating motion.
What a clever idea, they staged an accident to save me, to avoid any
I looked across at the General with his bloated
carcass, he was treading water, trying to stay afloat, with a octopus
stuck to his face. Well, what do you think of our military now you idiot.
Minutes later, through my saltwater singed eyes,
I felt a large arm pull me into a motorized boat. Immediately, the soldier
said, “You look familiar. Aren’t you that kid that likes to go white
water rafting in sewer tunnels?” The crew laughed.
I entered the submarine, walked to the admiral
and said, “Great work Sir! You saved my life!”
“No problem son. By the way can you tell us where
the Gulf of Mexico is? We were on our way there for an exercise, but
our radar broke, so we submerged to find our location.”
He pointed to General Ruiz who they detained
in handcuff, still with the octopus stuck to his face. “That’s one scary
looking guy. I think now I know why we haven’t been able to overthrow
Ruiz shouted, “Por favor! Remove this off my
face! I can’t breathe!”
I compassionately obliged by forearming him across
the head until we reached the shore.
After I made it back to Florida, I alerted the
press about my two associates who were later released after the publicity.
When I saw them they looked like contestants in a Mr. Universe contest,
after lifting tobacco leaves for 16 hours a day. In other words they
looked like they had been released from prison.
Then it hit me; the answer to my thesis. I’m
sure they knew all along. So when the day came to deliver my presentation
I asked Mr. Rodriguez to help deliver my speech.
He stood next to me in class with no notes. My
professor announced, “Mr. Banks will now present his thesis on why Fidel
Castro has been able to stay in office for so long.” I motioned to Mr.
Rodriguez, who walked over to the podium, cleared his throat and said,
“He’s an ass!”
The thesis was so persuasive, I not only received
an A in the class, the faculty on Cuban studies threw out all other
dissertations regarding the dictator’s success at staying in power,
and replaced them with that one sentence.
What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!