Soon Come

 Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in a land not so far away. Before the internet and during a strange time when newspapers were printed on paper and news were actually reported. The good people of America made travel arrangements through a broker of such things. Sometimes they were called Travel agents. Sure it sounded exotic, and people used to rely upon them to make arrangements for travel, but more importantly recommendations. A simpler time, when imaginations and descriptions were both used to make decisions, coupled with a leap of faith. Hard to imagine I know.

And in a great leap of said faith, and upon the recommendation of an “Agent of Travel”. I found myself transported to the magical land of “Soon Come”. Not just a destination, but a lifestyle I would soon learn.

But those were much different times; the first requirement was awaiting a ticket and brochure to arrive via the mail carrier. Imagine no instant printing of an itinerary and e-ticket!

One dreamed of the magical land and luxurious accommodations that were described by the “Agent of Travel”. And perhaps this was better to prepare one for the land of “Soon Come”. Waiting and patience would come in handy at a later date on my magical journey to the Island of Barbados.

I booked passage for myself and “Ex-1” (kind of like R2-D2 mentally, but with a bikini) and patiently waited the week for the tickets and the brochure of our all-inclusive luxurious accommodations at “Barbados Beach Village”. After a long Massachusetts winter, surely it would be a welcome relief. Eric the “Agent of Travel” had taken care of everything!

The package arrived just as he promised. The color brochure showed beautiful beaches, spacious beautifully appointed island suites, and the most beautiful buffet spread ever photographed and presented by a smiling islander. Boy what could be better? We studied the brochure and itinerary for the two weeks before our departure.” Soon Come”.

And apparently just the perfect amount of time for “Ex-1”, to pack her 6 bags for our beach vacation.

We departed Boston at 5 am. There was the hour ride from Concord to the airport. We awoke at 3 am in preparation.

Thirteen hours and two planes later having cleared customs in San Juan, we boarded a frighteningly smallish plane bound for Barbados. The “Agent of Travel” knew no mercy.

I was seated in my customary predestined airline seat (right next to the most irritating person on earth, and right in front of a 2-year-old with an inner ear infection) and listened to the water landing instructions in a hybrid cross between Spanish and English (Spanglish?)At least what I could hear over the loud sounds of the propeller driven engines, and a fine young loud couple from New York, seated in front of me.

Note: while not a religious man, I am convinced god not only has a sense of humor, but gives us the tools to cope with any situation. On this day, my toolkit consisted of youth, stupidity, and copious amounts of alcohol.

As the plane tossed and bumped over the Caribbean, listening to “Spanglish” and an annoying couple from “New Yawk” named Mitch and Suzanne embarking on their honeymoon (and without doubt, a long life for Mitch). I was struck by the beauty of the water and the Islands dotting the horizon. And convinced once the hellish travel ended, my tropical island paradise awaited.

Much to my chagrin “Ex-1” utilized her superior intellect and engaged the couple in meaningless conversation about our vastly different lives (that would soon part ways if I could get off this damn little plane) and the Island of Barbados. I became acquainted with Rum and coke, while listening to Suzanne’s tales of her travels. She had been to the Island four times prior. And she began each sentence by pointing this out. Mitch (now mentally nicknamed “Poor Bastard”) didn’t talk much, perhaps because there was little oxygen in close proximity to Suzanne? And the short flight went by in what seemed like a week.

The Stewardess made the announcement of our impending landing or doom? And we all buckled up. I could see my Island paradise and sanity in sight. Right after two failed passes at the little runway cut in the middle of the sugar cane fields, our cracker jack pilot landed safely at Barbados International Airport & Rum distillery / T-shirt shop.

A brightly painted cinderblock terminal, with Island charm and angry-looking black men in uniforms, with Uzi machine guns, speaking a curios Island English.. A bright aqua colored sign “Welcome to Barbados” greeted us, Right before the rifling of our 7 bags and the interrogation by customs. (They were charged with island sovereignty and T-shirt sales) once we cleared customs we were directed to the currency exchange/gift shop. I exchanged perfectly good traveler’s checks for monopoly money or “Barbados dollars”. (Much like the rum, they would flow freely) We then stepped out to the Island paradise I dreamed about, and sought out our courtesy car also arranged by our “Agent of Travel”.

The blinding sun soon gave way to a clusterfuck of strange contraptions on wheels parked in front of Barbados International Distillery / T-shirt shop. I searched for a sign directing me to the Barbados Beach village courtesy van. No such sign existed.

I went back inside to the currency exchange and gift shop and called the hotel. A well spoken professional hotel manager named Pierre looked up my information and assured me a driver was in route. “Soon Come” Mr. Dark, “Soon Come”.

I stumbled back outside in to the heat only to find “Ex-1” in the company of Suzanne and Mitch (poor bastard) who, as luck would have it, were also not only staying at the same hotel, but were waiting on the very same driver. “What did they say Ex-1 asked?”

Either overjoyed or stunned at my continued good fortune, I mumbled the only phrase fitting. “Soon Come” I said.

The “Mon and his Moke “arrived. (A moke is a vehicle which is a cross between a VW bug and a golf cart) he loaded the 155 bags required by “Ex-1” and Suzanne, while “Poor Bastard” and the Dark mon climbed inside. Exhausted and exhilarated to explore the Island paradise. We weaved through insane traffic snarled on the roads through Bridgetown and its third world squalor. The city slums a sad contrast to the tropical beauty of the island.

We drove along narrow roads with great volcanic boulders protruding in to the roadway, dodging goats and small children who wander the roads at will. The vehicles and goats travel at breakneck speeds both seemingly on the wrong side of the road in a kind of British parliamentary order meets Gilligan’s Island mishmash that is just wrong! We arrived at our hotel unscathed, although forever changed by the experience.

We were welcomed warmly by the tall black man behind the desk Pierre. He swiped the credit cards with great gusto while speaking “britgilligan or islandese”. He explained the hotel layout and the location of the many amenities lied about so cleverly in their brochure. All the while complimenting me, for being a dumb asse American tourist who fell for the all-inclusive plan. No worries for you Mr. Dark enjoy”.

He gave me the keys to my luxurious villa and pointed me in that direction, assuring me the bags would “Soon come”.

I suppose in comparison to the slums of Bridgetown and the absolute poverty we had witnessed on the long moke ride to the Hotel, Our villa was luxurious. I immediately panicked noting the absence of a television set in the room. While “Ex-1” focused on the large lizard as the most disturbing appointment. After complaining vehemently via phone to Pierre, he convinced me to go enjoy a drink at the bar while the Lizard was corralled and the bags “soon come”. After 15 hours of travel, 3 plane changes, and 2 long hot taxi rides, it sounded like a fine idea. And so “Ex-1” and I strolled through the lush tropical landscape to the beach bar. For all the horrors and funny quirks to be exposed in this story, I am sincere when I say it was the most beautiful beach setting I have ever experienced

The friendly people, beautiful scenery, and large amounts of Rum in everything work on your expectations. After 4 or 5 drinks it didn’t seem so bad. I resolved to make the best of it and enjoy. We wandered back to the room to dress for dinner.

Not surprisingly it took 2 more phone calls, and like magic our bags finally arrived. (“Soon come” by Island definition has no time constraints)

We decided to enjoy an informal dinner at the beach bar. We cleaned up and changed in to shorts & beach attire. We were seated at one of 30 tables in the open air bar /restaurant adjoining the beach. As luck would have it at the table next to us sat Susanne and Mitch (poor bastard) looking very pasty and white in beach attire neither would wear in New York I bet.

The good news was the never-ending supply of Rum punch drinks. I discovered given enough of these even Suzanne and Mitch (Poor Bastard) became tolerable. Or was I maturing and developing patience? No… it was the Rum punch.

We ordered from the limited menu the open air bar offered, you could have a Hamburger, Flying fish sandwich, or any variation of a flying fish dish known to humanity. And fruit plates galore. I would come to know this menu intimately in the days to come.

(At one point growing so desperate for anything other than the hotel food, I hired a moke driver to take me to a newly opened Kentucky Fried Chicken ‘first chain opened on the island I was told’ heavily guarded by men with machine guns, as the locals were upset about the chain for some reason? I cared little, willing to fight hordes to eat something American. It tasted kind of like chicken, but it may have been goat.)

As the sunset sat on our 18 hour travel day, and the Rum punch flowed like… well Rum punch. Suzanne and “Ex-1” babbled incessantly. I began to take a liking to Mitch (Poor Bastard) He thought little, and talked even less. This would aid in his ability to remain married to Suzanne I was certain.

We bonded Mitch (Poor bastard) and I. Over many hours and Rum punch drinks He felt close enough to share his plight with me. It would seem their “Agent of Travel” had taken every schedule and detail of their honeymoon trip in to account, except Suzanne’s menstrual cycle. That is when I discontinued the use of his name and simply called him Poor Bastard openly.

In retrospect I wish I could have offered him the following phrase “Soon Come” Poor Bastard, “Soon Come”. I believe this phrase could have been used to not only help him find patience during his honeymoon, but in the many days thereafter when He prayed for death and his escape from Suzanne.

Instead I took solace that a Steel Drum Band began to play. It was impossible to hear the conversations and one could stare blankly at the magnificent sunset on Barbados.As stray goats wandered in to the open air bar and battled patrons for scraps of food.

(Later I would begin to suspect the menu items described as Hamburger to indeed be stray goat. No USDA beef inspections on Barbados mon.) The waiters would wave colorful towels in a goat dance ceremony to scare them off periodically. The long day and Rum punch led to an early exit to my luxurious accommodations for a nights sleep. As we left Suzanne and Poor Bastard at the bar, I realized fully, tomorrow too would “Soon Come”.

I awoke early, so too did the Lizard who the staff had supposedly extricated from the room the day prior. “Ex-1” would be tested early. I phoned the desk to order breakfast and Lizard removal. Only to be notified we had a better chance of the Lizard being removed than we did of getting breakfast delivered. As the hotel’s main Kitchen was being renovated. But that the all-inclusive guests could enjoy a breakfast buffet of pastry, coffee & assorted fruits at the beach bar.

I made another death threat in my notebook for my “Agent of Travel”, and realized we may be sharing the luxury with the lizard for awhile. And decided “Ex-1” could “Soon Come”, to the bar to find me when she and the Lizard had awoken and become reacquainted. I took my book and beach towel.

The mornings on the beach in Barbados were beautiful. A strange tropical freshness and promise of a new day seemed to wait. Like a morning dew, without the dew. The beach bar breakfast buffet was great. Plenty of fresh fruit, and coffee in abundance. Still a long stretch from the cornucopia depicted in their brochure, but hell wonderful none the less.

There already seated at a table sat “Poor Bastard. I joined him and we spoke in low tones and short sentences while sipping coffee and reading our books. We watched the morning unfold together as Goats and guests existed in an uneasy truce. We would repeat this process all our days on the island.

Mid mornings and afternoons were spent on the beach, or under an umbrella. Or at the beach bar where coffee gave way to Banks Beer a local treat quite palatable when ice-cold, and  segued to the Rum punch later in the day.

In between an endless stream of comedy and lessons in patience unfolded before us.

The tourists were treated to a string of characters and locals who derived their living upon them. The women were sold handcrafted island jewelry, or had the option of having their hair braided by the locals.

An array of water sports were made available to the guests. They ranged from Jet Ski’s to Para sailing. We took part in them all until the “Incident”. It seems one of the guests wives ran off with the Catamaran operator. While it suspended water sports for a period of time, the tourist was found unharmed albeit embarrassed. We didn’t see that couple again? However it appeared “Poor Bastard” was brighter than I had assumed, he offered comfort to the worried husband with the sage island advice that he was sure they would “Soon come”.

Then there was the daily visit from Coco. “Coco the Aloe man”, a charming old character who showed up about mid morning each day. Eyes bloodshot and smelling of rum, Coco was none the less a pioneer in the sunburn industry. He started with the whitest tourist on the beach and began his sales pitch. “Welcome to the Island Beautiful woman / handsome man, I am Coco the aloe man. I have the best thing for your sunburn.” He would produce a clear pint bottle containing a milky white liquid. The bottle contained a piece of Aloe. Coco would extol the medicinal benefits and magical powers of the aloe plant. Few escaped his sales pitch the first time. Included in his customer list were “Ex-1” and Suzanne. Who would later witness Coco polish off a pint of rum, rinse the bottle in the pool, break off an aloe plant from the landscape and refill the bottle with water and the plant. A most efficient production method. They sold for 5 Barbados dollars. A bottle of rum from the hotel gift shop cost 2 Barbados dollars. A profitable island venture as well.Didn’t do a damn thing for the sunburn either it seemed. And every day, the list of tourists asking if anyone had seen Coco grew. Not to worry… “Soon Come”. As did the blisters, from their sunburns.

Evenings brought more of the same dining experiences. A bevy of Flying Fish and Goat burgers. Followed by steel drum bands, and rum punch parties at the pool bar. When the all-inclusive guests inquired if the menu would be broadened, they were soothed with promises that the kitchen renovations were progressing, and more choices would “Soon Come”.

After 4 days, the tourists rather than the natives grew restless. We banded together and rented a bus for a trip to Bridgetown. Where we were assured we could find many wonderful restaurants and shopping excursions for the women. We found Flying fish dishes served in unique ways, but it was a change. The shopping consisted of more useless trinkets. But the bus ride and Rum were fun for all. After a late night in Bridgetown spreading Barbados dollars, we arrived back at the hotel, said good night to the Lizard who was actually a good roommate. And woke hung over, knowing the next day’s adventure would “Soon Come”.

The same group all joined together the next day for a Jolly Roger Caribbean cruise aboard a replica Pirate ship. What a blast! We swung from yard arms and dove in the Caribbean we sang pirate songs and drank Rum Punch from large wooden vats located throughout the ship.

We sailed the calm waters off of Barbados. Everyone on board had a great time. Literally, including the driver of our chartered tour bus. We took a drunken ride back to the hotel, dodging protruding cliffs and the children and goats of Barbados.I heard people praying for our safe arrival to “Soon Come”. And so it did.

Much like the trip began, the endless follies continued until the stay ended at “Soon Come”. We departed Barbados with a new-found patience, and expectations of what were necessary. I had not thought of Suzanne and “Poor Bastard” since, despite our mutual promises to stay in touch. Likely Coco has passed on the aloe business by now, but I doubt, much else has changed about Barbados. I hope not, because now I am thinking of a return visit that may “Soon Come”.

 © J K Dark onthedarksidewordpress.com

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~ by onthedarkside on August 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “Soon Come”

  1. Barbados is whispering……”Soon come, Mr. Black…..soon come.”

  2. Kev, I enjoyed the bumpy ride of this tropical story. Thank God for the rum punch. A beautiful reminisce; warts and all. All I can say about “Poor Bastard”, is “Poor Bastard.”

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