Wednesday July 3, 2013
Photo credit, Dos Equis
Do you remember those Dos Equis beer commercials, featuring ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’? You know, with quotes like ‘Police often question him, just because they find him interesting’; ‘He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels’, and most importantly, ‘I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis’. Of course you remember those. Everyone does. So hang on to that thought, because it becomes important.
After having had Luis take the crews of s/v Serendipity and s/v Skebenga out on his trawler for almost three days where he fed us food, drinks, anything we needed for nothing in return, we decided we needed to give him a big thank you. The only way we could all think of, since he wouldn’t accept money or gifts, was to cook him a nice dinner to be served at the ranchito to pay him back for his hospitality. The crew of Skebenga, much more talented in this area than either of us, took care of the food, and we were given the responsibility of drinks. So off to the DF we headed that morning to grab a 24 pk of Bravah, and then pulled a few bottles of wine out of our ‘cellar’ to go along with it. From what we’d seen, no one in this group was heavy into drinking, so we figured these items would suffice. When the dinner bell rang, we stepped off the boat to find out that Elmarie had beautifully set up one of the picnic tables with fancy glasses and dishes, and Luki was standing off to the side, ready to make mojitos for anyone who wanted them. All of our hands shot up, and moments later we were handed freshly prepared mojitos with a secret ingredient that gave it an extra little kick. (Yes, I know what it is, No, I won’t tell you)
We all settled into the empty picnic table to enjoy an appetizer of fresh guacamole that Luis had brought to share. Have I mentioned already that he’s an amazing cook? Best guacamole we’ve ever had. I seriously need to take lessons from this guy. We stuffed our faces on this until we remembered there was still a main course to come. Moving ourselves over to the dining room table and filling our plates with the tasty chicken dish that Luki had prepared (maybe I need lessons from both of these guys), we were finally able to talk Luis into telling us the history of his life, something he was hesitant to do on our boat excursion, telling us he’d save it for another time. These are the things we found out about Luis that night. He grew up in Cuba, and even though his father was a doctor and their family was very well-to-do there, they all packed it up to move to the States in the late 50′s when the Revolution was beginning, when Luis was around the age of 17. I won’t go into too much detail since it’s not my life and not my story to tell, but we also found out that he had fought in the Cuban Revolution twice, once for Castro, and once against him. For his second service, the one against Castro, he went through harrowing details on how one by one, his group fell apart and he was the only one left, roaming through the countryside of Cuba, just trying to survive. He was eventually captured in a small town and thrown into prison for two years where he received daily threats from Castro himself that he would be executed. They were all scare tactics, and eventually he was bailed out by the US government.
Moving back to the United States, he became an entrepreneur, going into the restaurant business. His first restaurant was a little local hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, mostly filled every night with immigrants and bar fights. He didn’t even have a name for the place, so when the cops hassled him that it was illegal not to have a sign for his establishment, he just told them “I call it 2nd Left At The Light”, something that was already posted up the road, a government sign put up referring to something else. He sold that place after a number of years, tried a French restaurant for awhile, which did really well, and then ended with an Italian restaurant in Florida, which did even better. As if it was no big deal, he told us of a time that Oliver Stone (writer of Scarface) came in to eat one time, complimenting him later and asking how a Cuban did such a great job preparing Italian food. He replied to Mr. Stone, “You tell me how an Italian did such a good job writing a movie about a Cuban!”. It was around the time Luis was recounting a story that while running a restaurant in Chicago in the 70′s, he turned away a mafia heads, some big guy called Muffy I think, since he refused to accept a tip to seat the guy right away, knowing what it would eventually lead to, when I nudged Matt. ”Guess what I just realized”, I quietly exclaimed, “Luis is the Dos Equis guy! The Most Interesting Man In the World!”.
It took him a half a second, but then he fell into a silent laughter with me, because we both realized I was right. Hell, he even looked and sounded the part! The stories kept going on and on all night, and all four of us sat there, mouths basically hanging open, as he recounted his life, mundane and ordinary in his mind, but to us, a cumulation of some of the most interesting stories we’d ever heard. Did you know they wanted to have a female companion to go with the Marlboro Man and his wife was asked to be her, but she turned it down? Or that his mother, a seamstress, was personally asked to do work for Yves Saint Laurent? The kicker was at the end of the night when dinner was winding down and Luis asked for a beer, after having drank Orange Crushes all night. I told him I had some chilled Bravahs in our fridge, ready to break out, and he goes, “No, just grab a Gallo from my fridge. I don’t normally drink beer, but when I do, I prefer that”. I almost died.
Representing with some Michigan riesling.
On a quick side note, Georgie has figured out how to jump from one boat to the other, and now we’re constantly chasing her down after she decided she prefers our neighbor’s far more shaded deck than ours. With four more months to go here, I could see this turning into a problem.