17 April 2006

God and Alcohol

I am a firm believer that alcohol is an important part of one's daily diet, and take cover in those studies that show drinkers (less than five drinks a day was the outer limit in one study Danish study—that's the one I focus on) live longer than abstainers, I do try to start no earlier than cocktail hour—which is officially 4 pm Atlantic Standard Time. The only exception is lunch, at which a beer or two, or a glass of rose is acceptable. But as we prepare to return to civilization, circumstances have conspired to move the drinking hour earlier and earlier.

The French workers love their beer in the morning. When we rented a house in St. Jean, Jesse would walk across the road to the café for his morning coffee. He marveled at the guys sitting there drinking beer while Jesse was having his eye opening morning espresso. When I do my exercise walk in the morning, I often see the road workers sitting and eating their paninis at 9:00 a.m., drinking their Scheafer beer. (I had not seen a can of Scheafer beer for scores of years before I came here. I thought it was long gone, like Piel's, another Brooklyn beer--remember Harry and Bert?. But there it is—the choice of working men all over the island. I wonder if any of them ever heard the Scheafer jingle "Scheafer..is the..one beer to have when you're having more than one." Those of a certain age not only remember those words, but the tune too, I am sure. Did they sponsor the Brooklyn Dodgers radio and tv broadcasts? Along with Old Gold cigarettes? I think so. I can hear Red Barber talk about an "Old Goldie", i.e., a home run, and I think Scheafer beer too. I always wondered what the jingle meant. Less alcohol? More alcohol? Hmm. Intentionally ambiguous? Intentionally meaningless? Probably the latter.

The day starts early here. The rooster who lives next door, ( no I "chickened" out and did not wring his neck) is scheduled to start up around 6 a.m. and he is rarely late. There are days I am starving at noon. The other day we were bemoaning the fact we were soon to depart Paradise, and decided to hit Saline beach by 11 a.m. We brought a cooler with sandwiches and beer. We were like fishermen: the cooler was empty before noon. Two beers before noon, a swim in deliciously clear Caribbean Sea, and a nap on the beach at 1 p.m. Hey, what's wrong with that?

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and we again went to the service (9 a.m.) at the Anglican Church. It is a beautiful 150 year old building, cooled by the harbor breeze which comes in the big front doors and blows out through the shutters in the wall behind the sanctuary. The Vicar,-- the former investment banker-lawyer from London who now owns the Isle de France hotel-- led a great ecumenical service, and his sermon focused on tolerance to all religions, all minorities, especially gays and those with HIV-Aids. He is way out in front of most clergy in the United States, that's for sure. He invited everyone, not just the Anglicans (who, I was confident, were a minority in that packed church) to come up and accept communion and I was one of very few who didn't accept his offer. But it was a nice service, Pinks loved it, and the church was filled with good feelings radiating from happy people. At the end to the service, the chorus sang again, and this time the hardware store clerk led the chorus in a rousing, foot stomping, hand clapping number that must have been right out a Southern Baptist Revival songbook. She brought the house down. The chorus, led by hardwarestore lady then did another hand-clapping number as they filed down the center aisle, followed by the Vicar and the sanctuary team, and the place went wild.

Upon departure from the church, I shook hands with the Vicar who was greeting all his congregants on the church steps. I thanked him for the lovely service, and we chatted a bit. His interest picked up when he learned I lived here. He is ever so charming. He said he was pleased I liked the service. I said, "You know, Vicar, (I never called anybody "Vicar" before. Have you?) it was a really great service, nice singing and all, …but for this Jewish boy from Carroll Street in Brooklyn, there was a really a lot of stuff about Jesus and God, and that stuff, and I was sorta wondering if maybe you could go a little lighter on that kinda thing next year?"

Nah, I only thunk it, but I didn't say it. I mean, after all, it is a church, and it was the holiest day on the Christian calendar, and the rest of the crowd (including MRFL) seemed to be right there with him, so, being the good guy I am, I let it slide. I certainly did not want to offend this nice man, in which case I would have felt guilty about partaking in the champagne and sushi then being served on the beautiful lawn outside the church. So there I was, at 10:30 a.m. drinking alcohol in the morning again. And that is my message:

God made me do it.

Btw, Easter is very big here. Much more so than in the U.S. On St. Barths, the holiday starts Friday noon, and includes Monday. Locals have an interesting custom: they camp out on the beaches. Not drunken brawls. Families, young kids, living in tents on the dunes, cooking over small charcoal stoves, spending the days in the sun on the beach and in the water, using their inflatable sleeping mattresses as play floats. We took the boat around the island yesterday afternoon, and there are several small beaches on the southern coast that are accessible only by water, and they are dotted with small tents, with boats bobbing at anchor 20 feet off the shore. What a lovely custom. Only in Paradise.

I'll be happy when Tuesday arrives: the bank will be open and I can drop in and quietly carry on again about the latest wire transfer that has gone astray. It is difficult even to make believe I am upset. Ah, I love it here.

A bientot.

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