Tuesday, February 27, 2007

rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated


I.

It started in a mess of dolphins. Dolphins everywhere - hundreds of them, all around us, doing a fast-as-can-be stitch through the water as they chippered and yelped and turned their little Loki faces towards us on the boat. I could've sworn they were all smiling. I know I was.

Actually, it didn't start with the dolphins. It started as I made the reservations in the car on the way to the docks, locked in a race against time to snag one of the two hotel rooms left open on the island. The battle won, we segued into a couple of splendid crepes, consumed lazily under a crystal pour of morning sunlight as we watched a street full of dogs and motorcycles and hand-holding and smiles. Only then did we amble over to the boat, and only then did the mess of dolphins emerge.

I'd forgotten the charm of this place - the reminders of places growing longer in memory, like Taboga - Jamaica - Contadora. Painters on the shore....endless variations on the theme of 'golf cart'...the way an island enters you through breath and skin and the beat of your slapping sandals, until you're well under her spell and daydreaming of a life where you never have to leave her. This is every island, condensed and scrubbed and made convenient, but it is still very much of itself.

There are small things I want to inscribe here against my own forgetting - like my flirtation with a little white parrot named Sugar Ray, who literally chased me down the street when I left him behind. He went whizzing by a minute or two later, clutching the center of his owner's bicycle handlebars with his clipped wings spread and beating, screeching with obvious joy. I also want to remember toodling around in a golf cart, waving at the other silly cart-renters, and playing a round of mini-golf under a canopy of old trees, wrapped in the sharp smell of eucalyptus, as little cats chased our golf balls through the course. Then it was time for drinks and live music and my very first oysters - for making friends with locals and walking unevenly through the streets with your strong arm thrown around my shoulders. And then, at breakfast the next morning, getting kicked out of our first restaurant for reasons I still don't quite get. OK - well - maybe I do.

II.

An Open Letter To The Parties That Kicked Us Out Of Busy Bee:

I know you hate me, sweetcheeks, and all I stand for, as I sit here with a stupid souvenir hat on my head and knock back a questionable amalgum of day-glo concoctions with little decorations on. I know you hate me because I've been you, except not in a stained waist-apron over a prodigious gut, clutching menus like shields against those who would ask you to do your job. I was behind a long counter in a room that smelled of wood and winebuckets, watching the men in bowling shirts and their sensible-shod wives tipsily ape television wine experts, break glasses, and mispronounce 'sauvignon'. But what I understood even then that you obviously don't understand now is that those clumsy bumpkins - here and now, yours truly - are the reason you get to be here in the first place. And when I go home and file the photos and put the hat in the closet, you still get to be here. You still get to see this sunset, and dip your feet in this water, and pet the horses and knock a golf ball over the road. So fucking smile a little bit.

Yours In Tourism,
Annette

III.

That said, it was a great trip.