So I was thinking about taking a course in Espanoel. Just about everybody and his cousin in the Caribbean speaks Spanish, so I thought…why not?
The best self-course they tell me is The Rosetta Stone at Office Depot.
So VISA card in my hot little hands, I went down to the local Office Depot to begin my education.
Two hundred twenty nine smakaroos!
My neighbor Nelson is Cuban. He speaks Spanish.
A case of beer at the Circle K is $6.99
So Okay. I’ll buy a case of beer. Nelson and I will drink it. The more Nelson drinks the less he speaks English.
Who says us Canadians can’t negotiate toe to toe with them there foreigners.
Gawd I love my life!
The 10:35 Barracuda
Everybody talks about the laid back tropics. Bull! I’ve been living here over a month now; and I have noticed that the tropics keep a schedule tighter than any Swiss bus schedule.
Every morning at 10:30 – 10:35 latest, a three foot long Barracuda show up under my dock. The locals tell me that Barracuda are territorial so this Barracuda must be just checking his crop of little fishes.
So what does he do for the rest of the day? Does he have a noon appointment under Jacques Cousteau’s boat, Moulin A Vente to check out the minnows? At coffee time does he wander up the canal to see if there are any mini Groupers for take out? I really don’t know what he does for the rest of the day. All I know is that at 10:35 AM every day, he shows up under my dock.
Another scheduled event. At 4:26PM or shortly thereafter the first ‘No-see-um’ bites me. Guaranteed.
So then I retire into my boat, as clouds of No-see-ums who have heard about the sale on Canadian Bacon descend on me. They hang around for a couple of hours as I hide in my boat, looking in the windows, checking out the vents. But about 8:00PM the No-see-ums have returned to their mangrove swamp most of them having bit the big one… me.
At 8:00PM if there are no clouds, every star in the sky is visible. As any loyal Canadian would do, I always look for ‘our’ star. The North Star.
At home in Winnipeg, this time of year, we look almost straight up at the North Star. Here in the Keys, the North Star is down the canal, dimly peeking between the two masts of that ketch where they have the loud parties with Portuguese music on Saturday nights.
Another thing you can set your watch by, is the tides. The dock that Royal Tease is tied up to stays the same level, but my boat rises and falls depending on whether I have to make the leap between boat and dock with one, or two bags of groceries.
So there you have it. Despite what those Puritans say, the tropics are a hotbed of schedules, deadlines and cycles that would even make a Swiss bus scheduler envious.
And if that scheduler doesn’t believe me?
Okay, just skinny dip under my dock at 10:35AM.
On the lawn of the Cracked Conch Cafe in Marathon Florida is a pile of garbage, Or at least that was what I thought it was until I stopped in for a bowl of conch chowder yesterday.
Pointing to the pile of dried banana peels I said to the waitress: “What’s that on your lawn?”
“Don’t tell me.”
“Don’t tell you what?”
“Don’t tell me some poor bastard used that to escape all the way from Cuba.”
There’s homemade boats all over the Keys. Some of the better ones, and I use the term ‘better’ with a sense of awe; merchants like the Cracked Conch Cafe have dragged up, placed them in front of their establishments, and used them as sort of a display.
If you ever want a life lesson in freedom this is it.
After my soup I went out to look at the ‘boat’.
What the refugee had done, was to steal ten sheets of real cheap roofing Styrofoam. He sandwiched them together using glue and electrical wire. Then he pulled it all together top and bottom, with pieces of plywood. After the block was made he hollowed out a place to sit, rounded the ends and launched the sucker. He risked his life on something that looked and felt like a half melted Safeway’s ice cream bar.
Then he rowed ninety miles across shark infested, Gulf Stream churning, open ocean.
I wouldn’t get in that boat on the Assiniboine River on a hot day in August.
Holy smokes Fidel! Just how bad are those three hour speeches?
What a testament to the spirit of liberty.
What an indictment to oppression.
Scroungers ‘R’ Us
If you own a boat, and are somewhat normal, you my friend are a scrounger. You have developed skin like an alligator, the eye for a deal like an eagle, and the heart of a New York City pawn shop owner.
I just bought a bow rail, and a pulpit that hold my anchor on my boat, also scrounged, for $40. Retail, the chandlers would have charged me $153 just for the pulpit, and for the bow rail? They would have charged me something the cost of which would have been just short of a liver transplant.
As a sailor you learn to never shop at a place that the employees greet you at the front door dressed in uniform and that cheery crocodile smile.
“Good Morning! My name is Something Steppford! I will be cheerfully performing your wallet-ectomy today!”
What you want is someone like John at Driftwood who points a half finished beer bottle towards a pile of derelict boats crumbling in the back of the boatyard and says;
“Show me what you got when you’ve finished, and we’ll settle up.”
This is the type of businessman you’d buy a case of beer for.
After we settled up; John took my $40 and gave it to one of the down on his luck semi-employees he hires on a casual basis, to help pay for the guy’s phone bill.
Merry Christmas John and Shelly.
You Better Love That House
You can buy a house down here in Florida very cheap, relative to the rest of the USA. The recession, although not quite over in Florida is definitely ebbing. There are still loads of quality real estate to be had.
Just one proviso. If you buy a house on the cheap here, you’d better love that house because Bucko, you ain’t ever selling it again. Not in your lifetime.
I made a wrong turn of the Overseas Highway and drove down a block of twenty houses. Twelve houses had for sale signs on them.