05 November 2013

Paradise, Lost and Found

Okay, it is time for the annual Fall trip to Paradise to check on the seven-figure grass hut that the local real estate brokers refer to as a “villa.”
Always an adventure.

I recall reading of a simple test for dementia: If you forget where you put the car keys and then find them in the refrigerator, you are okay. If you forget you own a car, see a doctor. 

Dawn had left our little Daihatsu Terios at the airport, (a common vehicle here but ours is the only one on the Island with an ‘08 Obama bumper sticker)  and  we were able to get all the luggage in on one trip--a first. Weather was gummy, so as soon as we unloaded the car at the house and unpacked, I had a beer and tried out the newly-lined pool. (It is still leaking, by the way. 10,000 euros to replace the old leaky liner, and now we have a new leaky liner.  Isn’t the French Caribbean great?)

But that was a minor problem. When I went to move the Terios so I could back the Kawasaki Mule out of the garage, I could not find the Terios keys.  Now we have all misplaced keys. Sometimes it takes  minutes to find them, sometimes even an hour.  But two days? I had them in my hand only an hour earlier! Two people times two days is FOUR WORKING DAYS!  You know how depressing that can be?

 Well, I guess I am still on this side of the line.  But barely: I had locked the car keys in the bedroom safe!  Duh. Isn't that where you would put them?

Jet Blue from JFK to SXM was a piece of cake: Hey, for only an extra $200 we could buy room for our knees,  desperately needed after the yellow cab ride to the airport. Boy, am I glad we are getting rid of Bloomberg and his Fascist Taxi Commissioner. Now, Mayor Di Blasio, as payback for the huge political contributions from the taxi cab industry, can kill the new roomy Taxi Cab for Tomorrow, and we can all take YogaKammaSutra lessons and learn to sit in yellow cabs with our legs folded behind our head.  The first words I want to hear out of the new mayor’s mouth is a pledge never to ride in a limo.  He is 6’5”, and I want to see him in the back seat of a Ford Focus yellow cab wherever he goes.

For the JFK-SXM plane ride, I was all set to make progress in my current book, Embers Of War, a fascinating history of how the United States blundered into the Vietnam War in order to appease France and the Republicans. Yup, the French had done so well in WWII, Truman (formerly my favorite US President) didn’t want to leave the French with their honor besmirched by having to give up her Indochinese colonies. Later, he could not handle the heat of the likes of Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon who accused him and his Secretary of State of surrendering China to the Communists and otherwise selling out to the COMMUNIST SCOURGE.  (Mothers, hide your daughters.) The result: the original raison d'etre of our assistance to France then morphed to the birth and total unquestioned US acceptance of the sacred DOMINO THEORY. Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson,... .They all drank the Kool Aid.

But Jet Blue kept me from Ho Chi Minh by seating Pinks and me in front of two shrill women of a certain age, each of whom obviously assumed the other was hard of hearing.  They may have been correct for all I know.  I considered offering to change seats with them, but wasn’t willing to give up my expensive  legroom, so I put Ho aside, bought a pair of $2 earphones, turned up the volume to the max and watched a movie that was so bad I already have no idea who was in it or what it was about. The women behind us were obviously on Red Bull and never stopped talking. At least babies sleep for part of the flight.

No sleeping or reading, of course on the ten-minute SXM-SBH leg. Our pilot was a cowboy. Dived at the airstrip with abandon, slammed on the brakes after bouncing half way down the strip, and then turned sharply at the early exit to the customs window. Love it.

The following day we were oh so eager to put the beach chairs in the car (spare set of keys) and boogie to the beach. We were there a whole 30 minutes before it rained. (The ambient air temp is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  So why are the rain drops 36 degrees?)

The day after our arrival was All Saints Day.  Everything closed. The day after that was All Souls Day.  Also very big in France. So at 5 PM on our arrival day I  had to rush out and get my Tanqueray and some Tonic. Is it any wonder the Vietnamese demanded independence from the French?

On All Saints Day, God nevertheless decided we needed another day of clouds and rain. Not so large an inconvenience because we were pinned to the house anyway. Lots of stuff to manage: leaky pool, leaky pool filter, broken dishwasher, termite damaged sills, peeling paint, meet with Dawn and workers to schedule, negotiate all of the above (Hah! “Negotiating” here means the contractor gives you an estimate and you can say “Okay” now, or you can assert your native American independence and wait a few days before abject submission.)

By the way, I know there is some alleged connection between All Saints Day and Halloween, but I am not sure what it is and am too lazy to look it up. Anyway, Halloween is not nearly so big here as it is in the US.  Just a few kids in costume go into the shops opposite the airport. Did not hang around long enough to see if any of them came out.

All Souls Day, I am informed, is when all those who were consigned to Purgatory during the preceding year get a pardon and get escalated upstairs.

I had my own release from a Purgatory of sorts that morning.  I forgot that the roof on my Kawasaki Mule was too tall to pass under a beam at the near corner of the left turn I need to make to put the vehicle into the garage. Last year I figured out I needed to make a wide turn and back and fill in order to get the Mule into the garage sans decapitation. But how could one reasonably expect an oaf who cannot find his car keys to remember that maneuver? So I blundered into a tight left turn, heard the crunch, tried to back up which only made it worse because that caused an upward buckle in the hard plastic roof and I was locked in hard.  Sort of a landed upside down version of running your boat aground. After a half hour of making it worse with every attempt to move the vehicle, I deflated the tires, hammered out the roof buckle from inside the car (don’t ask), wedged a screwdriver and wrench handle between the top of the roof buckle and the beam, and backed out. (The screwdriver went flying. I wondered what happened to the wrench.  Ah, I found it when it flew off the roof a half hour later while I was braking on a curve going downhill.)

Is there any wonder I love this place?

Later in the day, a spot of sun peeked through the clouds. Rumbled off to replace the air in the Mule tires and hit the beach to read and snooze.  Can’t wait till I get to part of the book where the French, their honor yet again geschmutzed for the second time in two decades, surrender and withdraw from the field so the US Cavalry can gallop in, defeat international communism, prevent those dominoes from falling, and win the war.  At least that’s what it says in my granddaughter’s Ohio public school history book.
A bientot.