Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Well, this is an effort that I've been picking at for a couple of days. Not nearly finished and I don't yet know where it will go. I don't have a title yet but I'm calling it Balmy. Would love any input.


They advertise as “balmy.” You know, warm, sunny beaches with white sand, turquoise water, colorful sunsets, tropical breezes rustling the palm fronds overhead as you sway lazily in a hammock sipping a frozen alcoholic beverage with an umbrella sticking out of it. It sounds good and it looks amazing in the four-color tri-fold brochure. The pictures are fantastic.

The reality is different. “Balmy” actually means humid. The sun beats down on you like a hot weight, the sand scalds bare feet and the water is warm and not a refreshing retreat from the heat. The breezes do rustle the palm fronds but they also blow sand into your eyes, your hair into your face and mouth. Your little umbrella skitters down the beach in the wind, there is sand in your beverage but it has long since melted anyway. Reality.

The sunsets however are indeed superb. Amazing salmons, pinks and purples filling the sky around the golden orb. Twilight also ushers in cooler temperatures where it becomes possible to venture outside without suffering from heat stroke. It also brings out the mosquitoes.

Only the models in the brochure have the flawless moist tan, firm athletic bodies and can wear white bikinis. And are young. The off-season beach-goers are more leathery of derma. Some are thin, some are not, most do not wear white bikinis and those that do, well, you wish they didn’t. And they are not young.

After a while, you get used to the heat and humidity. Women give up wearing make-up in lieu of sunscreen. Men give up on the antiperspirant. The natives call it acclimating. Which I guess means coming from wherever you were, lured by the brochures, and staying here waiting for the magic to happen and getting used to the heat and bugs thus turning you into a “native.” It is really the process of changing your expectations.

The brochure brought me to this place. I came with anticipation and hope for a new and “balmy” life. But the “balmy” life is expensive. Living where you get the sunset views puts you in one of two financial categories: the very wealthy where your manicured Bermuda grass lawn abuts the white sand of your private beach, or the destitute consisting of the nomadic homeless, the drug dealers and the male prostitutes. Not belonging to the former group and with no desire to join the latter, I have no sunset views of my own. Instead, I watch the sunset from the deck bar where I serve up drafts to natives and some new-comers all with the same dreamy look on their faces that I had.

I wasn’t expecting to come here to tend bar. I haven’t tended bar since I was in college. Then it was fun. I got good tips and I flirted with all the pretty girls. Seldom did I go home alone. Rarely did I go home with the same girl twice. Then I did. And I kept going home with her. The next thing I knew I was graduating followed in rapid-fire succession, marriage, career building, home purchase, children, middle age, and finally divorce. The list was supposed to end with college tuition and retirement; not divorce. But my wife had other plans that I was unaware of. So now I have college tuition and alimony and so I tend bar because I can no long retire. Especially in a “balmy” place.

I had intended to come here, maybe get a boat and offer charter fishing trips to tourists, or scuba excursions, or island tours. But, there are a lot of fishing boats for tourists here. It must be a common dream among the transplants. I don’t scuba dive, nor do I know anything about it. And
I know nothing of the island history to give legitimate tours. And I don’t care to know about the island history or what pirate sunk what ship where. Really, what does a city boy like myself know about boats anyway? The only time I was on a boat was the cruise we took on our honeymoon.

The bar I work at now isn’t the kind of bar I worked at when I was young. And it is precisely because I’m not young that I work here instead of the trendy kiosk bars on the beach. They only hire the young good-looking buff guys that flirt with the nubile young tourist co-eds, and occasional cougar, and can keep them at the bar, buying drinks, or having drinks bought for them, late into the night. I’m not young anymore and my flirting with the young girls would be creepy. And I’m not interesting to the cougars since I am the man they just dumped or got dumped by. The bar I work at sits off the beach and caters to the old men who run charter boats for tourists and the new-comers wanting to be more of a “native” and hang out in a local bar rather than a tourist trap. I don’t want to flirt with them and they don’t want me to flirt with them.

The bar is on a deck with a wooden floor, wooden bar, and corrugated metal roof covering only the bar and stools that surround it. The wooden picnic tables sit unprotected from the weather. The bar is splintery. The decking has splinters, the tables have splinters and the bar has splinters.
When it rains the metal roof mimics the steel drums that are so common on the island only out of tune and flat.

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