“Good morning, Fidel. I need you to sign off on the list and… and… Fidel! You’re not watching Fox News again, are you? You know what the doctor said about your blood pressure.”

“Bah! The good doctor only wants to ensure I don’t buy the hacienda while I’m on his watch. He knows that the physicians of suddenly deceased despots vanish faster than a one-hit-wonder after doing too many radio station Christmas concerts. And now he wants me to stop watching Geraldo. What’s next? My cigars and Bryan Adams CDs?”

“See, Fidel? You’re already upset. Let me turn off the TV.”

“If you must, Diego. Now, what do you bring me today?”

“The list, Fidel. We must send it today if it is to arrive at its destination in time.”

“Ah, yes, the list. Year after year we submit our list of artists that we’d like to invite to our workers’ paradise and year after year we are refused. Is there no one in this world willing to stand up to the embargo that has strangled our socialistic concert industry for 40 years? Is there not one single capitalist out there brave enough to sell us a date for The Cranberries or a three-night stand with The Moody Blues? Let me see that list, Diego. Hmmm…”

“Is there something wrong, Fidel?”

“Bruce Cockburn, Creed, Blues Clues Live! for the little ones, Neil Diamond for the señoritas. Yes, it appears to be in order, Diego. But what’s the use? President Bush will ignore our pleas just like Bill Clinton refused my request for a Buddy Guy date. Democrat or Republican, they all refused to permit great artists like the Dixie Dregs or Janet Jackson to play our shores.”

“Perhaps President Bush has been too busy to consider your last request, Fidel. After all, he has a war to run.”

“And that’s another thing, Diego. What kind of man is this Osama bin Livin person anyway?”

“Bin Laden, Fidel.”

“Whatever. He calls himself a leader? Real leaders don’t hide in caves. And they take better care of their beards!”

“Easy, Fidel. Your blood pressure, remember?”

“Yes, Diego. I remember. Sigh… Where was I?”

“You were about to sign off on the list.”

“Oh, yes, the list. But before I do, I’d like to make some additions.”

“Additions, Fidel?”

“Yes. Add David Byrne to the list, Diego. And the Pat Metheny Group. And that young lady who sings just like my dear sweet nurse sang to me when I was but a baby Marxist.”

“You must mean Alicia Keys, Fidel. Anything else?”

“Just our dreams, Diego. Add to the list our dreams that one day Aaron Carter will agree to play the Havana Verizon Amphitheatre. Our dreams that both Anne Murray and the Chemical Brothers shall one day play sold out shows in the light of a beautiful Caribbean moon. Yes, Diego. Send our wants, our needs, our desires that Cuba may once again be considered a must-play on every major tour. That is a list to be proud of. A list that even an aging demagogue like myself can sign off on.”

“Yes, Fidel. Anything else?”

“Just the usual, Diego. My best regards to Mrs. Claus. Yours truly, etcetera, etcetera.”

“Done. I’ll send this list immediately.”

“Oh, and Diego? This Christmas, let’s leave extra cookies and a dozen of our finest cigars for Señor Santa. Even an old dictator like me knows it never hurts to grease the wheels of power.”

“Consider it done, Fidel.”