Friday, December 29, 2006

A quest for a bike

This "one of a kind" shiny red paperclip is the begining of a quest. Inspired by Kyle MacDonald I started a quest to the "World's best bike" the 1975 BMW R90S. Follow the story as its progressing on our Quest blogspot

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Guess Who's Back?!

Me & Joe Forte
Hey, Joe Forte is back! Mike Mongo ran into him at Blue Heaven, but Joe was at the Coffee Plantation this morning.

Joe is one of our favorite artists of Key West. Welcome back, Joe! We missed you!

BTW, we have plenty of his popular work available here at Coffee Planation. Be sure and take a look the next time you come in for coffee, snacks, or lunch. (You have tried our new fresh sandwiches and salads, right?)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Who is coming to town...

We just got the news that Tom Rush will be playing Key West again this year. Rick Dostal’s Payback Promotions is bringing in the David Bromberg Quartet with the Angel Band, and Tom Rush. The one night only show will be held at the all new Key West High School Auditorium.
Richard Crooks, Bromberg’s drummer in his big band, (Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Nina Simone etc.) winters here in Key West so, lucky us, we will be getting a “5 piece quartet”.
We were honored to brew coffee for Tom Rush last year and we are proud to have been selected to supply coffee for all the players during the Friday, January 26th, 2007 show.
Billed as, “an Evening of American Acoustic Music”, it promises to be an outstanding show with longtime singer, songwriter, player legends who have shared the stage many times during their extensive careers.
Oh, get your Tickets
See you there!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Tale of the Camagüey Cheese

CH303My story takes place in Cuba, in the year 2002. Now if one knows a little about history or world politics, they will know that Cuba is a Communist country. But to be more exact, Cuba is a police state.

Even in the old Communist Eastern Europe, you had certain rights. In Cuba, you have none. The secret police can do whatever they want with you, and you can not say anything or do anything about it. In other words, everything in Cuba is illegal, and therefore nothing is illegal.

And so begins, my Tale of the Camagüey Cheese.

My best friend in Havana, and the godfather of my six-year old in Havana, is named Julio. Julio and I have been like brothers for about ten years. Julio is also my driver when I am in there in Havana. We were sitting at the bar in the Toliena Hotel one day, drinking 7-year old rum, when I said to Julio, "Why don't we rent a car and go to Camagüey for a few days. Naturally, Julio agreed.

Now, Camagüey is in the middle of the country, about 7-to-8 hours east of Havana by a tourist car. So the next day we rented a car, got onto the Grand Highway, and off we went. Julio is driving.

Being that everything is illegal in Cuba, the people must find a way to work around the system so they can survive. Camagüey is cattle country, and the farmers will make white cheese at home to sell to tourists driving through Camagüey on the Grand Highway. Of course, this completely illegal. But as you drive along, soon you will see a little guy pop out of the bushes or trees holding two or three blocks of cheese, each weighing a pound or two each. You may not understand, but needless to say as I continued along the Grand Highway, and cheese kept on presenting itself, by the time I had arrived in Camagüey I honestly had no less than twenty blocks of cheese in the boot (trunk) of the car!

Once in Camagüey City, we did the normal tourist things...all except for one thing. I was talking with an old man, who in the course of conversation, said to me he had an old flintlock pistol from the 1750's. Had this been anywhere but Cuba, this would have been unlikely. As it was Cuba, however, it was true. He let me know he was looking to sell it, and we negotiated for a while, and then I ended up with a foot-and-a-half long French flintlock pistol. Of course, this was completely illegal. Old or not, a person will go to jail for buying or owning a gun in Cuba. In any case, seeing as I owned one now, I was going to make sure I got it back to Havana! So into the trunk of the car, with the cheese, went the gun.

A couple of days went by, and it was time to make he long ride back to Havana. But the morning we were to leave, Julio ran into Davey, a friend of ours. Davey lives also in Key West, and was introduced to Julio through me many years earlier. Davey prefers to stay in Camagüey in Cuba rather than Havana. Somehow Davey had lost his Cuban driver, and so had asked Julio to drive him back to Havana. Since we were all leaving the same day, I said no problem, and that I could drive the tourist rental car all alone, and we can follow one another back to Havana...

So about 10 AM that morning, we set out on our journey back to Havana. Julio with Davey, and me with a gun and twenty blocks of Camagüey cheese.

About an hour out of Camagüey, I saw a young girl hitchhiking on the side of the road, so being alone and wanting some company, I stopped and picked her up. Her name was Anna and she was going back to college in the city of Via Clara (about 3 and 1/2 hours from outside of Camagüey). And since I had a good friend Vasyo nearby who I knew needed a ride to Havana, I would drop her off in Via Clara, and pick up Varyo, and have company for the last leg of the trip - about another 3 and a 1/2 hours, in a new tourist car - to Havana, as well.

All was going well when we got into Via Clara, and we were about to get off the Grand Highway and drive into the city, when a motorcycle cop popped up and pulled over my car for some unknown reason. But remember, we are in Cuba, and the police don't need a reason. In any case, I knew they would never search a tourist car, so I was not worried. When we stop, the policeman walks over to the car, salutes, and asks for my drivers license, passport, and tourist car rental contract. No problem, officer, I say, hand him my license and passport, and open the glovebox for the rental contract. But to my surprise, it is not there! So now I have a problem, and there is no way to prove to him I rented the car. (What I did not know was that my friend Julio had the rental contract on him in his shirt pocket. Of course, by this time, Julio is long up the road...)

Well, not having any proof who rented the car this motorcycle cop now had the right to search the car. Of course, he opens the trunk, and the first thing he sees is the twenty blocks of Camagüey cheese. The gun, in a bag, was under the cheese! He never saw that. But there is also the matter of Anna, the college girl, who he presumes is a prostitute seeing as how she is in a tourist car with a tourist. (Which, I forgot to mention, is also illegal. If caught, she could spend two years in jail!) So he comes back to my driver's window, and begins to give me the third-degree about not having the rental contract, and accusing me of planning to sell the cheese in Havana. We argued for a short time, when Anna from the side says to me in English, "Offer him some cheese."

So I got out of the car, and took the policeman aside, and in my broken Spanish said, "Look, you have a family to feed, and you make so little money. Why don't you take two blocks of cheese, and we will be on our way?" I went to the trunk of the car, took out two blocks of cheese, and gave them to him. He agreed, smiled, shook my hand, said, "Thank you very much," put the cheese in the side saddle of his motorcycle, and was off in a minute. I was amazed.

So off we went on a very steep, winding road over a small mountain...and come upon a huge roadblock. The police are checking through all the papers of all the tourist cars. Of course, I knowwhat is going to happen when they ask me for my rental car agreement and discover that I am without it. The close I get to the roadblock, the more ways I am thinking about how I am going to kill Julio when I get back. That is, if I don't go to jail first!

Again the cops ask for my papers, and when I cannot produce the rental contract again the first thing they want to see is, "What's in the trunk?" I'm sweating bullets because if they find the gun in the can - and especially as I am an American going to Havana - they are going to think I one thing, "He's after Fidel Castro!" They open the trunk...

...and my luck does not hold. They find the gun. He comes to my window, shows me the gun, and asks what I am doing with it and where I got it in the first place. I told him the truth about getting it from some old man in Camagüey. Worryingly, he does not believe me. He tells me to follow him, and gets into his patrol car. So off we go, Anna, the cheese (minus the gun), and, of course, me, to the main police station in Camagüey.

Once there, five hours go by until he police chief calls us into his office. We sit down and he proceeds to say that they had to contact the museum in Camagüey to verify that no gun matching the description of the gun I had was missing or had been stolen. Well, there were he proceeded to give me my gun back! I was flabbergasted! I could not believe that I got the gun back, and that we were being allowed to go. However...

Just before we left his office, he said, "By the way, what was I going to do with all that cheese?" Anna turns to me, and says in English, "You better offer him some cheese." So I turned to the police chief, and said that explained, with a completely straight face, "We have so much. Won't you take some for you and your family?" He said he would. I immediately went to the car, and, him being a chief and all, got him three blocks of Camagüey cheese. From the twenty I started the journey back to Havana with, I was now only down five, to a total of fifteen.

We left the station, and from there continued on to my friend Vasyo's house, then the three of us headed to the university. On our way to the university, I told Varyo the entire story, and how Anna had helped so much with the translation and everything. When we finally dropped her off, Varyo turns to me and says, "Don't you think you should give her some cheese?" I was struck for only a second - the cheese again!, I thought - and quickly I jumped out to give her two blocks of cheese, and thanked her so much for her help, and wished her luck with her studies.

Anyhow, Vasyo and I are soon on our way out of town to get back on the Grand Highway, and to make the last three-hour leg of the journey. I was happy. I still had the gun, now under the front seat of the car, and I still had thirteen blocks of cheese!

...That is until about an hour outside of Via Clara, we got stopped again. Now of course by this time I knew what was going to happen so I was unworried. And I was right. The cop comes up, I had him my license and passport, explain I do not have my rental car agreement, he wants to see inside the trunk, which I pop open to reveal the remaining thirteen blocks of cheese. He comes back to my window, and starts the same questioning about where I rented the car, why do I not have a contract, etc. Vasyo, seeing the whole thing transpire again, right on cue says to me, "Dennis, why don't you offer him some cheese." It was like deja vu. I get out of the car, walk back to the trunk (laughing to myself, but all the while thinking to myself, "Wait until I get my hands on that Julio..."), didn't say anything to the cop, just handed him over two blocks of cheese, got back into the car never saying another word to the cop, and drove off back towards Havana.

So now we're just one and a half hours from Havana. I'm still satisfied to know I haven't been arrested, I have the gun I bought, and I still have eleven blocks of Camagüey cheese, a cheese which must be the most amazing cheese in the entire world.

Which would end our story. Except by the time I got back, and had dropped off my friend Vasyo (to whom, naturally, I gave a block of cheese), I was down to just two single blocks of the very famous, very much in-demand, and very popular Camagüey cheese. You see, on the way into Havana, we were stopped several more times. I am sure that the police radioed ahead to one another, "Look for the American tourist in the rental car without contract. He's got cheese."

Dennis Riley
(as transcribed by Mike Mongo)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Holidays

SPARKLING lights are everywhere and Christmas music fills the air. It's the season for love, giving, and wishing.

We at the Coffee Plantation wish you the happiest season of all.
Diane, Theo, Jamie, Milli and Mawari