28 November 2012

Carib Culture

Okay, time to don my anthropologist’s hat, and do my duty to educate y’all on some of the cultural differences between St. Barths and New York City.
Warning: today’s report has much to do with gender differences, i.e, how females here differ in dress and comportment from females in continental United States and Canada.  If you have no interest in this subject, this would be a good time to bail.

Okay, here we go:  every trip we make to St. Barths starts, duh, at an airport.  It’s a two leg trip: 3.5 hour jet to the Dutch/French island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, and a ten minute rubber band powered plane from there to Paradise.  Landings in Paradise are not for the faint-hearted.

The trip from KDY was uneventful. Because we had luggage, (we tend to bring all our worldly possessions with us, even for a ten day stay.  Well, not quite all. I did not bring my down parka or my tuxedo.) it was necessary to re-check baggage in St. Maarten, and go through security again there.  That’s where cultural difference number one was highlighted:

 I was busy removing my shoes,  emptying the computer bag onto the counter that fed the carry-on luggage xray machine conveyor, all of this being done with the boarding passes between my teeth. This is an intense time for me, and no matter how often I go through this drill, I frequently screw it up, leaving behind belts, wallets, wristwatches etc,.  Pinks is very aware of my focus at these times,  but nevertheless insisted I interrupt my routine and pay attention to a developing controversy up at the people scanner where  what I took to be a Japanese family of five was lined up at the scanner threshold, but not moving through.  The first in line was a young woman, somewhere between 25-35 yrs old. She was stalled there because The Dutch equivalent of a TSA officer standing at the other side of the arch raised his palm and refused to permit her to walk through. He insisted she could not pass because, he said, she was not properly attired for the departure concourse. Why?  Well, her complete ensemble consisted of a thin strip of a bikini top and a thong bikini bottom, over which she wore a black see-through beach coverup, which, in conformance with St. Barths style mandates, covered up nothing at all.  In fact, the filmy black thing only accentuated her apparent nakedness because the damsel’s bikini was flesh colored and one had to stare long and hard in order to establish that she was wearing anything at all beneath the black see-through.  Because I am your trusty anthropologist-reporter, that is exactly what I did. And after dedicated observation, yup, I can attest she was wearing a bathing suit---of sorts.  But the TSA guy still refused to let her pass. (Query, would a United States TSA agent take the same position?  Why?  If ever there were an airline passenger who was not hiding a weapon, this woman was it.)

The  problem was accentuated by the fact that the TSA guy spoke only Dutch and some heavily accented English, and the Japanese family had no idea what he was talking about.  Finally, after a lot of pantomiming, the young woman reclaimed her carry-on, retreated to the rear where she pulled on a pair of shorts over the bikini bottom, and the attire-Nazi settled for half a loaf.

Our turn came and we passed through without issue.  As I was sitting on a bench re-tying my sneakers and re-bagging the computer, a TSA guy came up to me and said, “Are you Mr. London?” Uh, oh. I admitted I was and he said, “Good, here are your boarding passes which you left behind at the x-ray machine.”

We arrived at our villa in good shape. Remarkably, Winair actually shipped our luggage on the same plane we traveled on.  That happens but once in five trips.  Ah, the joys of travelling before the “high season.”

By the time we unpacked, dunked in the pool, it was Tanqueray-and-tonic time.  The sunset, viewed from the front porch was sensational.  Even got to see a bit of green flash at the very last moment when the top of the penny disappeared below the horizon.  Should have taken a picture, but the alcohol haze was numbing. Just like it should be.

Monday was chore day, with a 4 PM trip to Flamands Beach.  I set up our chair so we faced both the sun and a twenty-something naked person lying on her back, (no, not the woman from the airport), put my feet in the warm sand, opened my Kindle from which I read a whole paragraph before lapsing into a rem nap.  Alas, both the sun and the sun bather were gone when I awoke.

Problems in Paradise?  Well, the roof leaks (the guy who built the roof blames the architect, who does not respond because he is dead), the refrigerator needs work (after all, it is more than a year old), our mattress has decomposed-- it is like sleeping on a large kitchen sponge, (the guy who sold it to us blamed heat and humidity—heat and humidity in St. Barths,--who woulda thunk it?), the outside of the villa needs a paint job, the seat belts in the new Kawasaki Mule are placed so that mine comes across my upper arm, while Pinks’ hits her in the neck, and so far I can not find a single person on this island to make an offer on my 2006 Jeep. 

So is it all worth it?  Of course, not even a close question.  This is not Obama v. Whats-his-name, (you know, the candidate who Carl Rove nominated in the election following the McCain/Palin ticket.  This vote is more like FDR v Hoover, or Johnson v Goldwater).

In case there was any doubt where the balance lies, Pinks went to the gym this morning where she, once again, enrolled both of us. I tend to go once a week, while she goes 4-5 times a week, and lots of our serious conversations consist of her encouragement that I go more often (some negative types, not me, would call it nagging).

But carrying coals to Newcastle, Pinks put her thumb on the scale and reported to me that after her workout at the gym this morning,  she paused at the big glass doors to the dance-class room and was startled to see twenty or thirty young women wearing skimpy tight shorts and sports bras working hard at a pole dancing class.  Gotta check the schedule.

Hey, maybe I’ll even go more often to gym in our NYC apartment house and stumble onto something surprising.  Right, just after I win the Powerball lottery.

Bottom line, I seriously regret we scheduled this trip for only ten days before the long stay starting in January.  Hey, into each life a  little rain…..

Hey, come on down, I’ve got a Jeep you will love.

A bientot.