"South America on $320" story # 8

Maracas Bay, Trinidad & Tobago           May 30, 2002

"You know who always have great heads of hair? Bums. You never see a bald bum."
     "You know, you're right. I wonder why that is?"
     "Well ... it's probably because they never take showers."
     "They never take showers. When do you notice your hair's falling out? When you find it in your drain in the shower! Hair comes out in the shower. Some bums haven't taken showers in years."
     "So, you mean, if a bum were finally to take a shower, all of his hair would fall out right then and there?"
     - a loose quote from a scene involving Steve Martin and a friend ("The Jerk")

My weekend continued.
     Sunday came, and I wanted to go to the beach. Since the only person I'd met the previous day was some dullness-addicted lunatic who travelled the globe watching test match after test match of boring cricket (don't get me wrong; I like cricket, it's just very boring) and who adhered to some rule that he would never allow any conversation he was engaged in shift to any subject other than the test match after test match of boring cricket he'd watched, I still had no friends to go to the beach with. I was going alone.
     Just before I left my witch-house, the land-lady squawked, "Justin! Why are you going to the beach alone!? Ask your roommate, David! He might go!!!"
     I'd considered asking David's plans, since he'd mentioned wanting to go to the beach this day. I decided I'd listen to the old shrew's advice to get her off my back, so she wouldn't cast a spell turning me into a toad. It was early morning, so I knocked on David's door to wake him.
     "Haggatha" watched me do exactly as she'd advised me. Naturally, she became more disgusted at me than ever. She acted as though my stupidity came as a personal insult to her. "Justin, whaddaya DOIN' knocking on David's door at this hour!!! Let him sleep!!!!" If she would've called me what she felt like calling me, she would've added: "... you bumbling dildo-head!"
     Waiting for David wasn't an option. I had to get out of the house. right ... then.
     Luckily, if you don't have any friends in Trinidad, there are plenty of bums willing to hang out with you.
     I went to the transportation station downtown. There were no buses to the beach from there on Sunday. They re-directed me further into town.
     Walking, I soon found myself at Port of Spain's plaza on George St. - not the best place to make friends if you're white. Looking around the yellow square, my eye was caught by a two-story store called Catwalk Fashions. I approached it, considering that the store could possibly lead me to some fun sidework as a model.
     That's when I met Tony. A smooth, shaven-headed, easy-featured, forty-something black guy drew near. He said, "Excuse me, but I noticed you taking an interest in the shop here."
     I agreed I had. I asked if he had anything to do with it.
     "Well, uh ... actually, I am the, uh ... owner," he said.
     I believed him. We chatted briefly about the business we could do together, and he asked my plans for the day.
     "I was trying to go to the beach. Maracas Bay," I said.
     Tony said, "I'll tell you what, we'll hang out for the day." I'd made a friend. "I'll take you to Maracas," he said. (What he meant by this was: "We'll ride there in a public taxi, and - by the way - you're paying for us both.")
     He led me on an untraceable zig-zag through the tight downtown blocks. All the shops wer closed on Sunday, and the people who'd come to the streets looked hardened.
     One real ugly guy with a face like pea soup made his sales-pitch to me from his step as I passed. "What do you want?"
     "Money!" Tony replied sharply.
      "Then go to a bank!" said the ugly guy.
     This situation somehow escalated before my eyes into the two men yelling in each other's face. They almost came to blows. Tony claimed later that he'd considered pulling a knife on the guy.
     We moved on. Tony bade me to wait outside as he turned into a narrow hallway amidst the dirty block of continuous building to our left. His home was in there somewhere. He came out with shorts on, bananas, bread, and oranges in his hand, and a towel. We were going to the beach!
     The place to catch the "maxi-taxi" shuttle to Maracas was nearby. Tony said one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Trinidad was only one street over, and a drug-dealer had been killed there the other night. This tells you something about trying to find transportation in Trinidad.
     We waited for the maxi-taxi to get a full load. Instead of waiting inside the taxi, Tony had us sit on a step across the road, because it was important we "look like we belong." Tony had told me earlier, "Any trouble that's coming to you is coming to me too," which was admirable.
     To be honest, Tony had been a happy, friendly, singing guy. In many ways, everyone should be more like that. He happened to be very vocally a christian. During the beautiful, wet large-leafed rainforest, mountain-crossing, sea-view-below ride to Maracas, he sang out the window.
     Before we got to Maracas, Tony found himself in his second bitter argument of the early day. He'd been singing, "Praise God! Thank you, God!" to a soca song, which had drawn the ire of a necklace-vending rastafarian (a member of a popular Caribbean religion that worships Haile Selassie, smokes a lot of pot, wears its hair in dread-locks, and makes up a large percentage of the begging and crap-selling Trinidadians who every day accost contributing people on the streets; some of them can be very cool, though). This rastafarian scolded Tony's hypocrasy for praising God to a music that encouraged sexually-suggestive "wining" dancing. It was a valid point.
     Tony and the rasta spat their good-byes, as the maxi reached the comely weekend spot, Maracas Bay. A thin, lengthy beach spectated the soothingly silverish gateway to the sea that spread apart the tropical mountains concealing it all. Single, round palm trees shot up to shade the beach in patternless spurts. More tall mountains perched like vultures behind the beach.
     Tony was uncontainably gleeful over the carreon he'd scored on this day. He took off his shirt and galloped toward the white waves. It was a special day for him. In addition to the beach trip, he'd collected three jobs on the day. He'd gone from clothing store "owner" to store "manager" to "painter." For a guy who most likely had no job, he had a good imagination. Probably due to the drugs.
     Back on the beach's large-grained sand, Tony put a banana between two pieces of bread and offered it to me excitedly. The beach carried mainly Trinidad's well-to-do, but Tony didn't feel out of place. He had a friendly word for everybody, which was a refreshing change from some of the cheer-less snobs who perched unsociably.
     Unfortunately, half of the people Tony saw were females. Around them, he behaved like a dog in head who'd broke out of the kennel.
     Tongue hanging from his mouth, he said, "You young ladies sure look nice in your swimsuits," to three girls who couldn't have been over sixteen. He justified this with, "Everybody likes a complement."
     His intentions moved from criminal to adulterous. He said to one lady caring for a small litter, "My, you don't see many girls looking like you who've had kids."
     He then preyed upon a poor lady whose husband had gone for a swim. When the guy came back, Tony joked, "You don't like a girl like that alone for long!" Not with Tony around, you don't.
     Tony then wondered what was the matter with me, and why I wasn't taking part in his bikini romping. Like he and I were going to pick up girls together! I pointed out that the girls around us were twice my age and obviously married. "What? I don't see no rings," he said.
     I went to play in the waves and pretend my bum wasn't there. By the time I came back, Tony had pan-handled enough beers to get himself drunk, plus one for me. After we decided to go back to town, he also got himself a plate of chicken, potatoes, and rice from some barbecuers.
     "I know how to get myself taken care of," he said. (What he meant by this was: "I'm a worthless slug.")
     Getting transportation into town was also difficult. I walked along the Maracas road, awaiting a maxi-taxi. Instead, a car going fifteen miles an hour struck me on my shin-bone loud enough to sound a large "clunk" that all in the full car must've heard. I was all right, though the collision was only millimeters from shattering my bone completely. To my disbelief, the car didn't stop; didn't even slow down. Only in FFFF-ing Trinidad do you find people this incoherent.
     Eventually, a nice young guy said he'd give us a lift. On the ride home, Tony's head got heavy, and leaned in my direction and passed out. I felt bad for exposing the poor driver to Tony, so I offered him money for the ride. He refused.
     Standing once again with me on a city sidewalk, Tony reasoned that if I was going to give money to the driver, I could give it to him. "Here, give me the money," he said. (What he meant by this was: "Won't you support my drug habit?")
     I gave TT$5 so he could return to his part of Port of Spain. "Later." I left him standing on the corner, angry. Maybe even hurt; hurt that our friendship which had begun on such a beautiful lie was now over.
     For once, I was happy to get back to my witch-house. Minuters after entering, however, my land-lady's friend, Miguel, arrived. Miguel is a bland, personality-less, opinionatedly frustrated, uninvited oaf. Along with my land-lady and the three girls I work with, he's a member of what I call "The Five Miserables" (the five Trinidadians I spend most of my time with - lucky me).
     Since I was the only one home, Miguel jabbered to me for an hour. Like a truly skilled dullard, Miguel masterfully deflected every attempt I made to show him I wasn't interested and the he should GO AWAY.
     And then, as the weekend wore down, the door opened. And for a moment, there was reason for me to smile in this crap-hole environment. My fellow housemate, David, entered. He'd also been to a Trinidadian beach on the day.
     He said, "You could've gone with us. I don't know why (the witch) told you not to wake me up." He raised his backhand as if to slap the land-lady were she around.
     I realized I did have a friend here. David. He has a youthful smile, greets everyone with a friendly "Hey, Mister!", and likes to party. A great guy. Did I mention he's Venezuelan?
     Ahh, David. A Venezuelan ray of sunshine in these Trinidadian pollution-clouds ...
     And that's the weekend.

Later, All - Modern Oddyseus

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