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Martinique: Arrival and The Atlantic

Cap Est: Grounds as seen from the Lobby

Roses strewn across the bed– they mean business in Cap Est and they have a flock of robed attendants waiting to seat you in the cool, open lobby and serve you a glass of sweet iced-tea. The mint leaf kept getting stuck in my mouth and I gave up trying to surreptitiously get it back in the glass with my tongue, swallowing it instead. This is not the kind of place where you pick at your teeth. This is the kind of place where they carry your bags to your room and serve you iced-tea. We had been led around the grounds by a young man who spoke English but who seemed slightly embarrassed either at his communication abilities or his station. There was a door leading to the spa where massages, soaks and steams took place. There was an open bar quietly being stocked. There was a koi pond, then a restaurant where breakfast would be served in the morning, dinner at night. Along the infinity pool, ringed with deck chairs upon which the most elite of Europe’s elite must lounge in their unwholesome swim-wear must sit, across a grand expanse of grass and under a line of palm trees. The Atlantic shimmers off into the horizon, the water glacial blue like something you’d paint in elementary school with water-colors. There was a detached building off to one side, the lesser restaurant for lighter fare. We were led around the a series of bungalows that sat above the pool, then through a tunnel made of hanging vines and stopped at the edge of a small pier. Another entry to the Atlantic, with a couple floating decks drifting about bearing more lounge chairs. We were led back towards the lobby, past the small fleet of cleaning carts where each worker nodded respectfully or dutifully as we passed. A customer had been locked out of his suite and one of the women would take care of him, take his hand and open his door again. We were led to our own. The tour continued, taking in the front room which led out to the private deck, next to the private plunge pool. There was a couch, a mini-bar, a table and upholstered chairs. The next room had a plasma screen TV with DVD player and, of course, the big gay honeymoon suite bed. With roses all over it. The remainder of the tour, the bath and outdoor shower, remained a blur.

We had unpacked, or at least rifled through our bags wondering if we should bother using the drawers available and examined the quarters. Luxurious was a word that sprang readily to mind, and this caused some minor confusion. What do you do with luxury? We changed into swim trunks and tried not be be embarrassed. Aaron sat in the plunge pool and tried to convince me it wasn’t cold. I stood on the steps leading down and shivered but he claimed once immersion was complete it wasn’t cold at all. I plunged and realized he was lying– my chest hurt it was so cold. But we sat in the plunge pool for a spell until the luxury ran out, then changed into more appropriate clothes and wandered back to the lobby, said bonjour to all the girls in their flowing robes which elicited a uniform choral response, then into the attached library. There was a selection of DVDs to borrow, rows of books in French, and a computer. Aaron discovered wi-fi and took his laptop out into the lobby. It seemed like a lot of trouble to download the new episode of “Lost”.

World Traveler
World Traveler

A consistent theme, tho. The day before Aaron was to fly down from Seattle in the morning, hang out with his parents for several hours, then they would pick me up and we would return to SFO for our flight to LAX. My answering machine had a message, however, relaying that his flight had been delayed and was now being re-routed to Oakland. Not an auspicious start to our vacation, but according to the internet only arriving flights were being delayed because of a low ceiling (fog), unless you were flying out to Chicago. Hours later he was in California, and hours afterwards his parents drove over to pick me up. We checked in at the automatic kiosk which was originally under the impression that my name was 210 Texas, then was concerned that I was using a passport to check in. An attendant came over to verify that I was me, then we shuffled off to security where I was resoundingly guilted for attempting to smuggle hummus onto an airplane. Actually I was ridiculed for trying to smuggle the hummus and then guilted by security because I would take the hummus out into the unsecure portion of the airport to give it away. “We’re going to have to throw it away,” he said to me. “You can have it,” I suggested, but he again insisted I was starving the Africans and Chinese by not unburdening the offending food on hapless strangers. Eventually I walked away from the situation and we made out way to the Admiral’s Club which, despite the name, is a cramped collection of cut-rate motel furniture crammed into a stifling airport room that has its own bar, free snacks and wi-fi. Aaron turned the thermostat down and began to download “Lost” and I began to practice my “je vous drais” a million times. He would laugh periodically.

When they began paging people to the Admiral’s Club desk our curiosity to piqued and since our flight was showing delayed Aaron went to investigate. Through my valium dosage I watched while he kept excitedly turning around to regard me while conversing with the staff, then watched as he hurried back. “We have to go now” and we were grabbing our bags and heading out the door. The flight we were on would land too late to catch our connection so we were being put on the previously delayed flight that was finishing boarding; the people working in the Admiral’s Club were pissed that the boarding gate hadn’t paged us. We were the last ones on, walking through the seated masses, and found whatever was available. Upon take-off I realized that perhaps I should have taken two valium.

Lost in San Juan
Lost in San Juan

After landing in LAX we followed a group of Kiwis off the plane, then turned the corner and walked right into the next gate that had just begun boarding. Since we were flying first class we had every right to step on the pregnant mothers, children and elderly they were trying to squeeze in the door. The passengers collected in the terminal watched with utter disgust as we kicked the needy to the curb and were treated with utter veneration by the flight staff. Back up in the air I ordered a scotch (I’d had one on the previous flight but it had cost me so I was making up for it) and received something that looked and smelled suspiciously like vodka. The stewardess who was serving me insisted that despite the clarity of the liquor and the ice I had specifically asked not to be included it was my drink. “She made a double” she encouraged, and so I drank a double vodka on the rocks. Then I had a beer. Dinner was served in courses and the flight coasted towards Miami. I might have taken another valium, then a tylenol as I realized that when someone had mentioned “air-pressure” and “fillings” I should have paid attention.

Passenger Collapses
Passenger Collapses En Route

The flight was marred by an ugly incident: a woman sitting near the front in coach had gotten up to go to the bathroom and collapsed in the aisle. I suddenly found it very difficult to get more scotch and turned to realize what was going on. Calls for a doctor were made (I don’t actually remember that part but Aaron says so) and one of the stewardesses did get the oxygen tank down at one point. A group of people stood clustered over the woman for quite some time as Aaron and I debated whether this would translate into an emergency landing in Texas. The rest of first class less involved in their self-interest, not even bothering to look up from their magazines. Eventually the woman was coaxed back from the brink of death and seated; Aaron and I drank ourselves into a light slumber for an hour or so, then awoke as we neared Miami.

We located the Admiral’s Club and Aaron began to download more “Lost” while I socialized with a cruise-bound group of blue-hairs and experimented with the two automatic espresso machines and the breakfast snack buffet before taking another valium for the next leg of the journey. Although it was a short flight we were served breakfast before landing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We checked in at the Admiral’s Club there and were informed that while we didn’t qualify for free entry (there is no first or business class when flying to Martinique) she would allow us to stay because we’d been flying for so long. This was exceptionally sweet because it allowed us to hide our bags for a while and leave the airport, right into a sweltering mid-morning sun. Good thing I had this cool new hat. After a very brief discussion about cabbing into town for food we wandered the grounds of the airport and then returned to the Admiral’s Club to download “Lost” and engage the free snacks. As the last flight loomed I tried out the private bar which, it turns out, is as expensive as the bar available to everyone in the rest of the airport, and took my last valium of the day. Despite the cost it was a wise move– they didn’t serve alcohol on the flight to Martinique.

Still, the hour and a half wasn’t time enough to clear my head before trying to clear customs. I sat on the flight trying to focus my eyes on the page specifically designed to get through customs without a cavity search and kept mumbling the same two phrases over and over again. Walking up to the immigration gate I could barely carry everything because I was clutching the book so tightly. Bonjour! I screamed at the guard. He didn’t look at me, just my passport, which he stamped and returned without a word. Bienvenue!

Martinique Airport
Martinique International

A ride had been arranged by the luxurious Cap Est Resort and I had been terrified of being greeted at the gate by a white-gloved house-negro bearing a name placard. The fact that this didn’t happen would have been an immediate relief had someone been there, but it was just a small airport lobby with all the signs in the wrong language. We wandered up and down wondering how exactly we should proceed and I tried to extort money from an ATM which spit a receipt at me without any money. Ah, yes. We stepped outside into even more sweltering sun and looked around. Aaron went back to the gate to see if we had someone how missed the driver. I stood outside with our bags trying my best to look like a tourist. Theory one proved to be true and I was introduced to the cab driver who most certainly would never be seen in white gloves pandering to anyone. He had, in fact, spent ten years in the military. He tossed out bags in the back of the minivan serving as our cab and we took off. Aaron told me that the sign had read: “Mr. and Mrs. Tuller”. Where are you from? San Francisco.

The countryside between the airport, which sits towards the center of the island, and Cap Est grew from rolling hills into fairly mountainous terrain. After clearing the populated regions we sped through copses of sugar cane and past old plantations. The houses dotting the hillsides, every building in fact, looked like they had co-starred in any expose on Colombian drug-wars. Everything looked lush, aged and burdened with heat. Meanwhile the cab driver is asking about the Democratic primaries (which were just about to hit California at the time) and I tried to figure out how to explain why I wouldn’t vote for either front-runner were I to vote for any Democrat. In the end I let the conversation drop by staring out the window and young banana groves, the fruit bundled in blue plastic. “To protect the bananas” he said, alluding to the recent hurricane. And then we were pulling through a gate and up into the roundabout, met at the curb by beautiful smiling island people.

Daily Leaves for College

I walked back through the lobby, bonjour’d the girls again, and stood out front in the roundabout to smoke a cigarette. Down the driveway the shuttered gate began to trembled, then open. Monsieur Daily forced his way through the portal, cab behind him. Somehow it just made sense, all of a sudden, standing on the expansive grounds of a resort on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean; it was really just a trip to see Daily who walked up with his bike messenger bag slung over a shoulder. We walked into the lobby and collected Aaron, taking Daily to the bungalow to unload his shit. Then we cruised around the grounds showing off all the things we had just learned, hanging out on the small pier beyond the hanging vines as the sun sank from the skies.

After the charm of dusk had faded we cruised down through the lobby, bonsoir!, and to the bar where a couple sat secluded in quiet conversation. I insisted, in my sleep-deprived and heavily medicated state, on handling the first order of the evening and strode unsteadily to the counter where my French was immediately repelled by a barrage of English. Alright, I conceded, ordering three ti-punch, but next time this is happening in French. He smiled and agreed, but refused to let me stand there waiting for the drinks to me made. We found a table and waited, surprised when the bartender walked up bearing a plate of pate’ on bread and a glass full of battered cod. Shortly thereafter the three glasses of ti-punch arrived, the drink of Martinique. It turned out to be much less refreshing than a mojito: Ti-punch is a splash of cane-syrup, a measure of white rum and a lime. It burns the throat and spins your head around and sits smoldering in your stomach daring you to argue. We polished off the snacks and chatted as another couple of patrons arrived, including a couple with a toddler in a carriage. It seems a funny place to bring the kids, but then again the three of us must have seemed quite odd to everyone else. At some point, immediately following one of the random heavy downpours that float overhead and disappear within minutes, I went back to the room and discovered a cat keening outside the sliding door. I let the animal inside, wondering if it was a lost pet, and since it was quite accustomed to people I picked it up on my way out and walked to the lobby. The beautiful girl working behind the counter (I insist that she looks like Thandie Newton in “Flirting”) who had the tendency to giggle whenever I attempted French watched as the cat immediately savaged my arm, then began to giggle as I asked the best I could if the cat was okay to be here. The girl didn’t seem at all perturbed by the little bastard’s presence so I let it gently down and it scampered off– I bid au revoir to the both of them and returned to the bar.

Cap Est Bar
Courtesy of Cap Est

The next round was ordered in French but it consisted of two Biere Lorraine and some sort of champagne cocktail Aaron thought sounded good. I’m not sure if the bartender could actually understand what I was saying but the transaction was completed, as was my paying with my card which, thankfully, worked. After the incident with the airport ATM I had my doubts I would have any access to money at all. By now the restaurant down along the water had opened for dinner and we walked across the lawn to inspect. While this may have been the lesser of the two on-site restaurants you would never know by the service or the fare. Aaron and Daily split an entree of Tuna Tartar and a campari a piece, then lamb over roasted vegetables and seared tuna steak over roasted peppers, respectively. I enjoyed a multiple-cheese panini over frites and another Biere Lorraine, feeling a little under-class for all the finery. By the end of the meal they were asking for the dessert menu and I was wondering where the top of my head had gone. I can remember getting the key for the bungalow but not getting back to it, nor do I remember passing out on the couch. After 36 hours awake, four flights over twenty hours, four valium and the contents of your mom’s liquor cabinet was suddenly awakened after Daily had been forced to crawl through some bushes and come through the sliding door leading to the deck. Their knocking could not wake me.

If you just want to see embarrassing pictures we pooled them on flickr. They’re unfortunately not in great order (each chunk is by one of us) but almost all of them have clever little descriptions so we expect you to look at each one. Otherwise, please carry on:

Internet Executives
“You Look Like an Internet Executive”

Breakfast is included in your bill so the next morning, astonishingly refreshed, we woke and showered to participate. Along the way a young French girl named Claire introduced herself to us, informing us that she was responsible for guest activities and wondered if we would be interested in deep sea fishing. Thanks, but no. The restaurant was bustling but had room to sit and the waitresses asked if we would like a crepe or an omelet. We were initially confused as it looked like a buffet but eventually understood that the buffet comes along with your choice of the main course. Luxurious! We had three crepes, freshly squeezed juice and coffee and loaded our plates with fruit, croissants, scrambled eggs and, if you like, bacon. Afterwards were returned to the bungalow, changed into swim trunks, and walked out to the quiet little pier. Aaron seemed uncertain about exposing himself to the elements so it was left to Daily and myself to pollute the pristine Atlantic with our pasty skin. Somehow I led the expeditionary force, dunking my head into the warm waters. It was fucking salty and I choked and sputtered and ended up stepping on something disgusting. “Does anyone know what’s in these waters?” I asked. “Jellyfish and sharks” replied Aaron. I’m sure he was lying but the thought comforted me as I paddled around in the shallow water waiting for Daily. We paddled and walked out to one of the floating decks while Aaron wore my hat and watched from the pier. After the charm of the experience had worn off we paddled and walked back, exited the Ocean, and went back to the room.

Daily had been adamant that we take a cab down to a beach along the southern coast of Martinique which he had visited once. It was close to the town of Saint-Anne which also seemed worth checking out, but we were unsure how to go about arranging things with the car we had asked the desk to call for us. It seemed that if we were dropped off in town we could always go to the beach if we liked but could otherwise tool around town and have lunch but we weren’t exactly sure how close the beach Daily seemed so fond of was to the town. It was decided that placing the driver on retainer for the afternoon might make sense, just in time for a series of heavy downpours to begin. Somewhat dispirited we tried to call the front desk to cancel the car but no one picked up. With a shrug of the shoulders we left for drinks at the pool where a mini-bar was open, the main bar closed until two.

Poolside Continentals
Poolside Continentals

Through the downpours we huddled under the over-sized pool umbrellas while the two drinks (me abstaining) took half and hour to be prepared. I’m quite certain this is the result of the amount of fruit which needed to be cultivated for the creation of the concoctions. The preparations took so long that Aaron and Daily both ended up bringing them to the lobby as our departure was growing imminent. Milling about waiting I went to the front desk and asked Thandie if after a package Aaron and I had shipped ahead: sunscreen and assorted liquid things you can’t bring on airplanes. She giggled and immediately sent for Claire who spoke English but had no idea about any package.

By the time I was thoroughly disgraced by my attempted communications our ride had arrived and, lo and behold, it was the same driver from the day before. There was a flitter of excitement at having dealing with an established contact but any sense of joy was immediately squashed by no apparent recognition from the cabbie. We rode in near silence south through the mountains for a while, until we found ourselves on the road overlooking a small town and beach, tapering off into the heavily armed gates of Club Med. Daily talked to the driver in French and English about the possibility of retaining him for a couple of hours but the cost seemed a little high; he seemed quite certain that we would have no problems finding a cab to take us back which would be cheaper. We paid him and bid au revoir, then walked into downtown Saint-Anne.

Hotel du Ville, Sainte-Anne, Flying the Flag of Independence
The Flag of Secession

If you’re not careful you’ll walk out of downtown without realizing it. Seriously, there’s three square blocks of postcard shops, restaurants that were closed and wandering honkies getting pink. The houses all climb the surrounding hillside and the downtown spills out into a sheltered bay off the Atlantic. We wandered past the same three locals playing dominos and drinking beers in front of a dark bar several times wondering if we had seen it all. There was an old church that you could peer into if you do so quietly. There were streets leading people’s lives. There were bored looking kids hanging out along the water waiting for anything whatsoever to happen. We lurked around the water, we walked up the hills a little, we criss-crossed and took corners, we saw the Independence movement’s flag flying. We stopped and Aaron and Daily had ice-cream. We figured that we could score a cab closer to Club Med.

The road towards the hermetically sealed resort followed an expanse of beach where people spread out, running across to the line of bars open for business. There was a disused stadium with an open bathroom– not the worst I’ve ever seen but it did confirm my suspicions that squatters were still in use on the island. We kept walking and there were no cabs. We tried walking more, down the entire length of the beach until the main road swung by at the gate to Club Med. There was a guardhouse and a long, lonely path just beyond. There were still no cabs. Perhaps we had just come down the wrong road, we thought, so we followed the main road back towards Saint-Anne, where there was a roundabout with people waiting as if a taxico was destined to arrive. As we ran out of road wondering how we could work this a car pulled up and a white guy stuck his head out calling to us in French. Daily had a brief, bilingual conversation with him, and the guy explained there was no chance in hell we would find a cab to take us back to Cap Est. Carnaval was here and no one would be working, and the local cabs would never drive all the way up the coast for a single fare because they’d be screwed on the return. However, he suggested, we could catch a ride with him up to Le Marin where he lived; there’s a good spot for catching rides. Aaron opened the back door on the passenger side and almost sat on the baby in a car-seat. We crammed in the back.

Cemetary, Sainte-Anne, Martinique
Cemetery, Sainte-Anne

I missed a lot of the conversation going on up front but the guy was working here, something to do with economic development. He liked living there but the island had taken a beating the past year: devastating hurricane; devastating earthquake; out-break of Dengue Fever. Excuse me? Our driver had just had it (“It was horrible”) and talked about how important it was to protect the very old and the very young. The entire south of the island had been suffering for months, after losing power for weeks after the earthquake of course. We reached the outskirts of Le Marin as dusk descended and he let us out just beyond a turnabout, alongside the road leading north. You’ll catch a ride here, he insisted, people do it all the time. We thanked him very much and he sped off into town.

Imagine, if you will, driving along and suddenly you see three dorky white guys waving their hands at you. What do you do? You wave back, of course, and laugh at the same time because it’s so funny. What they hell do they want?

After realizing this wasn’t working we started into Le Marin figuring that we could at least catch a taxico headed for Fort de France where we could, for a price, find a cab to cross the island back; barring that we could at least stay at Daily’s for the night instead of on the side of the road. The narrow road into town was thick with evening traffic and eventually we even saw a cab which, occupied, sped by. We hurried on, and Daily stopped to ask a woman if we were heading towards the taxico stop. She pointed us on and we picked up the pace. Another cab passed, again no stopping. We reached the taxico stop– the last one had left for Fort de France half an hour before. An empty cab passed and honked dismissively as we waved him down. So, do we try to get a restaurant to call a cab for us? There were one or two in Le Marin but it looked like a pretty small town all in all. Aimless we wandered back the way we had come. A kid on the corner smoking a spliff and drinking a tall can of Heineken stopped Daily and they spoke a little in French. He says he thinks his friend will drive us.

The kid ducked around the corner for a minute, bringing back his friend who was similarly smoking a spliff and drinking a tall can of Heineken. Neither of them could have been older than 19 and neither of them spoke any English. There was some discussion about a price and Daily bartered a ride to the town Vauclin which was close to Cap Est but did not reveal that were were heading towards the most exclusive place on the island. Meanwhile my head is trying to wrap itself around the concept of meeting two strangers on a corner and bartering for a ride. There’s something wrong about this image, I thought, wondering what it could be. Oh yes, it’s the fact that they want us to follow them across the street and into a gravel lot where the car is parked out of sight behind some buildings. In the dark. Shockingly by the time they had crossed the street the least concerned of us was Aaron who didn’t understand why both Daily and I started shaking our heads. We cut out, heading up the hill back to the roundabout. This is how people lose kidneys, I explained as we shuffled back. Unfortunately, since we were on the main road the two kids quickly caught up with us.

They pulled a little over to the side and began insisting we cram in the back of their two-door beater. Everyone, Aaron and Daily and the Heineken Brothers, all looked at me and asked, imploringly, if it was okay with me. Well shit. So I said it was okay and I ended up in the middle of the back seat, almost in between the kids. We sped off up the road, then whipped around the roundabout and headed back in Le Marin again. Wait wait wait! we all yelled but the driver insisted he needed gas. Aaron peered forward– why yes he does. So we agreed to buy €15 worth of petrol and everyone was okay, and we passed the corner where we’d met and we passed the taxico stand where we missed the last ride and we went over a hilll anbd suddenly we were in a much larger city with gas stations and McDonald’s and much better odds of maybe finding a cab. Hell, here’s a cab at the gas station we’re pulling into. Awesome. So Daily, after a moment’s confusion, gets out after the driver is lifted from the front seat by one of the guys working there. Aaron and I figure we should check the cab out but the Heineken Brother in the front seat sticks his arm out grabbing me, preventing me from getting out. So I start pointing over to the cab which is, of course, now hidden by a gas pump, trying to explain in my non-French what I’m trying to do. Meanwhile the kid’s getting worked up over my getting out of the car, then the other Heineken Brother pops his head in the back seat and begins rifling behind me. He just needs the water can to fill up in case we overheat. Daily gets back in and I try to get him to explain to the kid about the cab but Daily says he checked and there wasn’t anyone there. Our driver returns with a full can and we took off, back along the main road to the roundabout and this time up the hill towards Vauclin.

Typical Road in Martinique
Typical Road in Martinique, Scary in Daylight

Roads in Martinique are narrow and consist mostly of sharp turns and steep grades, wet by periodic outbursts of rain. When two cars meet they suddenly slow and ride the shoulders to pass one another, then speed up again as quickly as possible. Regardless of this and the fact that we had now achieved actual night the Heineken Brothers sped along as fast as possible and our only comfort was that their behavior seemed normal when compared to the other cars on the road. Anytime we went over a bump the car shuddered and occasionally a piece would tumble off with a loud noise. The driver turned on the radio and propulsive neo-zouk blasted out the speakers. Trying to make light of the situation Daily asked about what they were listening to and we tried to ask if they knew of any clubs in Fort de France which they interpreted as sex clubs. When we had cleared that up they said that, no, they didn’t know of any clubs. They did, however, offer to smoke us out.

When we hit the roundabout on the outskirts of Vauclin we tried to urge them a couple kilometers on down the road towards Francois but the instructions came too late for the speeding car and we were headed into town. They first balked at being asked to drive all the way to Francois but eventually the message got across we only wanted to go a little ways in that directions. Unfortunately all of this confused chatter took enough time to leave us lost in the city. We took some random turns trying to turn around and ended up on a dark street behind a car that had stopped for some sort of conference. We edged up on the tail until it began to slowly pull forward and the driver, emboldened by spliggs and beer, called out the window at the people standing there. We followed the dark street around another turn and ended up in a huge gravel lot populated by cars surrounded by packs of teenagers, each vehicle blasting neo-zouk and reggaeton. Each cluster seemed to take an interest in our arrival, sort of in the same way driving into the projects attracts attention, but the Heineken Brothers simply yelled bonsoir at girls and slowly wound their way through the expanse. Aaron, though, had caught a glimpse of food stalls along the far end of the lot and was beside himself with excitement. It was not meant to be– we found an outlet and followed the street up to the main road which led back to the roundabout and we were off towards Francois.

The kids were getting a little concerned about how much further we wanted to go and we debated in the back seat how much further we needed to go before the turn-off to Cap Est. Eventually, not really sure where we were, it was decided to divulge where we were staying. The two kids groaned and the driver, in very careful English, asked “Why did you not say?”. We continued along the road for a ways, no one certain as to where we were actually going anymore, until we came across a small store in the middle of nowhere. The driver got out to his the store and the other kid ran across the street to piss. What the hell– I got Daily to make way and hopped out of the car. The Heineken Brothers freaked out at our sudden exit but Daily said I was buying beer which elicited a resounding cheer from the two. They turned down Biere Lorraine for Heineken which seems ridiculous taste-wise but then my card was turned down by the store’s machine so it was just a good moment for rejection. The driver asked the woman at the store for directions and she yelled at us in French for not being clear as to where we wanted to go. Then it was back in the car and down the road for another spell until, finally, the small sign along the side of the road could be seen. We made the turnoff and began to head through the familiar banana groves leading the way to the resort.

We overshot the main gate by accident and continued to fly down the road until there was no more road, just a wide dead end behind the smaller restaurant. Immediately money was demanded and all three of us tried to pry our wallets out of our pants but couldn’t because we were crammed in the back seat. After some panic on their part Daily got the point across that we needed to stand up and the driver let us out and the other kid let Aaron out and we paid the fare with some on top for being paranoid Americans. The last one to pay I stood for a moment with the Heineken Brothers and, feeling guilty for my mistrust, thanked them as sincerely as my shitty French allowed. They both gave me a jive hand-shake and we parted ways, them back to their junker car and me through the mud behind the restaurant leading to the great lawn.

Daily Comes Down
Daily Comes Down

After finding out way back to the bungalow we realized that for we’d done and been through it was only seven– the restaurants weren’t even open yet. Fortunately we had the beer and we all decompressed revealing our inner thoughts during our journey back. The cat scampered around delighted at this excitement while we suddenly grew a little tired. Aaron’s quite right, tho. For all of our discussion about how stupid it might have been to meet two kids on a corner and hop in their car we had been, fifteen minutes before, trying to flag strangers down on the side of the road. After taking some time we went to the fancy restaurant and were seated (by that I mean they push the chair in behind you) near an older couple who seemed to be having a sub-par vacation. Aaron ordered a bottle of wine which was opened rather ceremoniously, the cork presented on a little dish, glasses filled and then the bottle was placed in a Sharper Image style holder on its own little table with the label facing us at all times. I had a Biere Lorraine and we all were served a vegetable bisque with bread. Daily had sea urchin with a foamed coco curry, a chunk of lobster on a bed of sea urchin and rigatone; Aaron ordered shrimp and lobster scampi over vegetables, quail breast with fois gros and morel mushroom; I dined on asparagus with poached egg and the unhappy surprise of fois gras, mullet fillet over tomato basil pasta and a rum sauce. Dessert? Daily ordered a plate of assorted cheeses and we all enjoyed espresso and a selection of petite pastries. Aaron? Aaron had a cart brought over so we could watch an elaborate flambe which corrupted a banana and pineapple and made everyone blush. When the flames had been smothered we went back to the bungalow. Aaron crashed soon thereafter and me and Daily sat up killing the rest of the beer and hanging out.

Yes, We Have No Bananas
Banana Grove, Outside Francois

The next morning we bathed and breakfasted as the day before, tho this time I chose the omelet over the crepe. Turned out to be more butter and cheese than anything else and soon I wasn’t feeling great as the grease hit the heat and sun and the entire day before. So unfortunately I missed most of Aaron fulfilling his promise to breach the Atlantic, tho I did stagger down to the pier in time to see him paddling around. The woman sun-bathing topless at the end of the walkway didn’t seem to pleased at this turn of events and we didn’t stay too long. In between bouts of dysentery I packed along with everyone else and eventually I met Aaron and Daily in the lobby to check out. There was no iced-tea for us, no water. We were leaving and the faces behind the counter weren’t even the same as those we had known and loved. I was very relieved to see that our cab, when it arrived, was driven by a new person as well. I just wasn’t up to feeling any slumbering tension as I had the day before. We loaded up the cab and took off, back towards the airport past the same banana groves and sugar cane, the same crumbling buildings and the rolling hills, back into the heart of the island and civilization. The driver tried to pull off the road at the airport despite the instructions we had given the desk– we were headed to Schoelcher where Daily lived. After some bitterness the driver agreed, informing us that the ride to the airport was flat and we were on the meter now. We continued on, down a freeway now, through the suburban town of Lamentin and then wound around the outskirts of the capital, Fort de France. Daily guided the driver to a particular off-ramp and we came to rest outside a funeral parlor that was in session. There was confusion about the fare, the driver saying that Cap Est hadn’t paid him for the flat rate to the airport, and in the end we didn’t argue because we couldn’t prove they hadn’t fucked up on their end. Everyone across the street looked up as we got out and got our bags, then turned away when they realized we weren’t anyone they knew. We passed quietly, up a short series of hills, past angry guard-dogs unperturbed by the growing heat of the afternoon. The next several days would be a little different, I expect.

Cultural Exchange- If you were a young Heineken Brother you might go out to see these up-and-comers from Martinique, Black Legend Brown:

Categories: Hesitating
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