Don't Stop the Carnival
16 January 2009
This blog will be devoted to my observations about what I consider to be a fascinating difference between our continental ethics and drivers and those of the Caribbean I've observed from our many trips. In no way do I intend to be condescending because we've struggled for four and a half months through uncertain and at times dangerous weather, uncomfortable conditions, considerable expense, etc. to share a winter here. So, who's the fool?
Anyway, I've always been intrigued with the unfulfilled dreams that are evidenced by the partially built or ravaged buildings and developments in the Caribbean. The common sight of a sizeable cinderblock house, first storey complete as a shell but with rebar sticking skyward in anticipation of an unrealized second storey is one I've always mused about. When, how and why did this dream succumb to the financial and logistical realities and lay fallow to he ravages of the winds and salt air? Do the owners/ developers think about this every day or is it some cast-off plan which will remain for generations in it's deteriorating state?
But let me now explain the title of this blog, "Don't Stop the Carnival". If you've had any enjoyment from our postings and are in any way intrigued by the "island way", I recommend an old book by Herman Wouk (yeah, he of War and Peace) entitled "Don't Stop the Carnival". It chronicles the travails of a middle aged advertising executive from New York who has a mild heart attack and decides to cast off the stressful Manhattan life for a more relaxed one in an imaginary Caribbean Island called Amerigo. He buys a partially developed hotel/resort complex, figuring his business acumen will allow him to complete it, have it run, and sit by the beach drinking rum punches while his trusty employees rake in the dollars from the tourist bonanza.. Well, Island reality sets in and wears him down. Please read the book (if you can find it).
Two more things about this book (written I think in the 50's): Jimmy Buffett, my hero and bard, wrote a musical on this and it is superb (Herman Wouk conspired with him on the production). And, more importantly, while for some strange reason the book is not readily available in Canada, my good friend Carolyn Gamble found a copy at an obscure bookstore while on a sailboat cruise off Nova Scotia and presented it to me for I think my 50th birthday. I love the book, the music, the relevance and am intrigued by the ebb and flow of development, much like the incessant tides.
Anyway, enough of this...... We wake up after a bit of a fitful night on our moorings as the current flows through at a good rate and changes both the sound and sensation of the boat. Boaters will know this concept; skippers and good crew are always attuned to the subtle changes while asleep which could signal trouble. The regular slap of the waves, the clanking of halyards on the mast, the movement of the boat, the many other subtle signals; no matter how sound asleep you are, if there is a significant change in any of these, you are bolt upright and out the companionway, expecting the worse. With tidal current, every 6 hours and 25 minutes or so the whole sensation changes and the signals aforementioned change. So, while it is secure and conditions benign, I'm aware of the sensory changes.
We have a light breakfast and head to shore to explore this Island of unrequited dreams. Kathy, Judy, Darius and I hike the only road from our Berry Island Club towards Chub Cay. After about a mile, with a couple of modest properties but no real community, we come across a fairly significant assembly of buildings. We see a local in on his cellular phone and ask him if we can proceed. He introduces himself as
"Chimmey", the manager of this once ambitious development. It would take too much time and space to fully explain our experience but suffice it to say that this epitomized for me Norman Paperman's (the lead character in Herman/Jimmy B's) evaporated dreams for a thriving resort. Big pieces of earth moving equipment lay dormant like the inert carcasses of modern-day dinosaurs. They will never move again but will they simply rust in place for the next 200 years?
Chimmey is very forthcoming about this place, the past and future prospects and why he chooses to manage this place while his family resides in Nassau. He has two children; a daughter in her fifth year in University and a son, starting his first year in music in university. I will hold many vignettes of our visit here including his pride in his small vegetable garden, the hermit crab who used a white plastic pvc fitting as his adopted "house", the several discarded earth moving machines, the various well constructed buildings, for all intents and purposes unused. This place was, at one time, vibrant and profitable; will it ever be again? Certainly not in the immediate future with the dim prospects for the economy.
We continue our hike to the shore where an abandoned beach bar area languishes, exposed to the ravages of time. We picture what fun this place must have been in its' heyday. This fine day it is a ghost of earlier times.
Back to our boats . On our way, some of the locals are cleaning fish and conch on the wharf. They give us a bunch of cleaned conch which we take back to Sea Sharp, crack (remember this beating the living daylights out of them to tenderize the stubborn muscle) and cook them for supper. Anyway the combination of this rich mullosk (?) and the shifting sea conditions make for a restless night. Sometime around 2:00 am, the boat motion changes and there is a thump, thump on the hull. Judy, Chopin and I wake up and realize that the struggle of the wind against current has wrapped our keel around the mooring rope; not a dangerous situation but certainly uncomfortable and not good for the bottom paint of the boat. So, I put on enough clothes to be modest, don a life vest and get in the dinghy. I push Sea Sharp against the grain and undo the incongruence of tide against wind.
Next morning, we awake, listen to the forecast, confer with our boat buddies and determine that we need to high tail it to Nassau to prepare what could be a tumultuous series of fronts. The several other boats around us have or are leaving and we cast off, leaving this place deserted and as a grim reminder of the treacherous vagaries of weather and economy. Poor Herbie will probably have no business at all today.
As a final note, I'm reminded of one of Jimmy Buffett's pithy lines in his musical "Don't Stop the Carnival", where an aging movie star is musing to her dog about the pitiful shortcomings of men, "We [women] have our faults but men have only two; all that they say and all that they do". This passage is one which my good friend Brenda M and I often consider in relation to her varying situations.