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James Suckling

Cubana, Heaven and Cigars

Posted: Oct 2, 2007 8:16pm ET
Maybe I was being a little dramatic, but I honestly thought that the Bolivar Royal Corona could be the last cigar of my life. I am not a great fan of Cubana airlines but I needed to take the flight this weekend to make my connection to Los Angeles. So I had no choice.

I quietly smoked my cigar in the morning with a cortado coffee and contemplated my life, my children, my friends, and my job. At least I wouldn’t have to do any more blogs, I thought to myself sipping the rich coffee and smoking the cigar. And I would not have to worry about all the anti-smoking laws around the world. Alimony, school fees, pissed off girlfriends, feisty editors, bad tempered immigration officers…you name it.

Gone. No more hassles.

Anyway, I got to Jose Martí Airport, checked in and went to wait for my flight. I looked out the window and I saw the beast of a plane I would be flying. It was built in the 1980s in Mother Russia. It was none other than the AS Yakolev Yak-42 D.

Here is what I read in Wikipedia online about the flying machine:

“Shortly after the type's introduction into commercial service, a number of accidents caused by vibrations in the tail section of the aircraft forced a suspension of the type's operations. After the necessary modifications were made, the Yak-42 re-entered service in the Soviet Union circa 1985. The type was never exported as new, only after the political transition of the former Soviet Union, a few Yak-42s were leased out to carriers in Africa, Cuba, Pakistan and in former Yugoslavia.”

I drank a couple of Crystal beers in the airport for courage.

We boarded the flight and it was boiling inside. The air conditioning wasn’t working since the engines were still off. It smelled of warm and sweaty people with an undertone of damp carpet. I tried to look out the scratched window. My seat was broken as well. They closed the door, started the engines and the air conditioning came on. It was much cooler but a white smoke was coming from under my seat. It was condensation from the air system and it began to look like a rock concert I went to decades ago in LA stadium for the Doobie Brothers. Lots of dry ice smoke!

Anyway, we taxied out on the runway and took off at a dragster’s pace. And the incline was more military than civil. My seat began to feel like a bed of nails under my ass. And the flight service was more like prison food than anything else.

The only upside I could see was that they sold five packs of Romeo y Julieta Petit Coronas. They must be the last of the airlines to do so. I didn’t buy. They wouldn’t let me smoke them at once.

About 45 minutes later we landed in Cancun. I was happy. I cheated death yet another day. And I thought of the words of Mark Twain as I got off the plane -- “if there are no cigars in Heaven, I shall not go.”

Comments   1 comment(s)

Edward Sahakian — Edward Sahakian —  October 10, 2007 5:13am ET

Dear James, I just returned from Yerevan, Armenia , where I attended the Armenian Cigar Smokers Festival, Mark Twain would have happily gone there, it's like the good old days of cigar smoking, one is welcomed and respected even more if he is smoking a cigar!!! there are many very nice cigar bars and several good cigar shops all over the town. You must make a visit there you will not regret it, and of course let me know and I will be more than happy to be your guide!!!Hope to see you soon in London Edward



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