Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"Philip, just think, how many men can say they slept with a lesbian, orchestra conductor nearly twice their size and age?" I said to Philip for the second time that day when what we assumed was Karen's Cessna flew over our boat as it took her to try to identify land that didn't exist. Which is also what I was thinking about as I watched Karen; dressed in her pajamas, play Brick House on her flute the morning after sleeping with Philip. Maybe three or four at the most, I thought. Which led to me wondering how many men got to listen to a renowned lesbian conductor play the hit from The Commodores on the flute after just getting shagged by their friend and boat mate. In that category I have to assume there is only one, me. And while Anna and Bren were there neither knew about the liaison between Philip and Karen and since they were both women were not eligible for my survey anyways. But the thought that rang in my ears more than Karen's flute was what she'd said to us the first day we met her, "I just need to fall in love first."

Karen came to Long Island, Bahamas in part as a vacation but specifically there because she'd purchased two parcels of ocean front property she'd discovered online. With the stock market eating away at her savings she felt the land to be a better investment. Ocean front property in the Bahamas with its stable government and proximity to the U.S. seemed like a better idea than Central America. Staying at Chez Pierre known more for it's food than accommodations Karen told us she was determined to befriend the fussy French Canadian proprietor Pierre. Trip Advisor warned guests Pierre was temperamental.” I decided before I left I was going to win this man over, make him like me." she'd said. It sounded strange to want to win someone over you didn't even know, especially someone known for being an asshole. Who cares what he thinks of you? I thought. But Karen, accustomed to dealing with artists, decided attitude was something that came with the territory for those who sought perfection.

The way she was eating her shrimp you could tell she was interested in what we were saying. Either that or the shrimp weren't that good. Karen was the conductor for the Illinois Symphony. And though I didn't know any maestros something about her looked the part, in certain ways reminding me of other women I knew in the arts. She wore a face that reminds you of Emma Thompson but larger. At over six foot tall, it's fair to say she was big boned; she'd have been quite fat if it weren't for her height. We were talking sailing with our friend Gary when Anna invited her to join us at our table. 

We'd made the thirty plus mile day sail from Georgetown, Great Exuma to Salt Pond, Long Island specifically for the Long Island Regatta. In the Bahamas the racing boats are made of wood with large masts that support a massive sheet of canvas. Many are built in Nassau but a few come from the out islands. Traditionally, the boats had to be sailed to wherever the race was to be held. Not an easy thing to do when you consider the size of boats and the hundreds of nautical miles of ocean that the Bahamian Islands are spread across. These days the boats are brought to the race on larger boats. The Regatta boats are small but carry ten to fifteen men, most acting as ballasts hanging off the windward side to prevent the boat for toppling over. And since being ballast isn't a high enough honors to prevent crew from going out the night before a race and getting shit canned it isn't uncommon to find your way onto boat the day of the race.

Upon hearing about our limited experience as sailors Karen started to consider the idea for herself if her contract with the symphony wasn't renewed the following year. Her most significant concern was the availability of pharmaceuticals as she kept referring to "my condition" and after pressing insinuated it was heart related. And indeed she had issues that were heart related because when asking Gary about his opinion on catamarans she said, "I just need to fall in love first.” Before we left the restaurant, Long Island Breeze, Gary invited Karen and the rest of us over for drinks on his boat that evening. 
When Karen climbed in the dinghy it was clear she hadn't spent anytime on the water. She lumbered awkwardly, her feet unable to anticipate the movement of the boat she nearly toppled forward. She gave an embarrassed smile. I noticed her pale ankles freckled with mosquito bites. They were nearly the same diameter as her upper calf, more tree trunks than leg. Aboard his boat Cool Change, Gary served Rum with Coconut Milk garnished with a cherry. We shared stories about being on the water. Philip told Karen about being in marching band in highschool. During an awkward silence Anna asked Karen to share a funny moment from the symphony. Karen shared a story about a famous violinist who was giving a performance with her. Not only was the guest of honor a great violinist he was also wheel chair bound and before the show, as Karen was wheeling him through the theater the wheel jammed and she nearly dumped him from his chair. Karen blushed and laughed as she told the story and everyone else joined in to make her feel comfortable. I said, "that's really funny" which is what I do when someone tells me something that isn't but I'm not up to fake laugh. 

It was after 9:00 when we left Gary's boat to go back to Long Island Breeze for the Regatta Party and the live Rake and Scrape Band. The band was charging $10 cover but since we arrived from the back via our dinghies, we hoped to go unnoticed. After ten or so minutes of doing our best job to blend in with the patio furniture we were busted. Karen paid cover for Gary, Philip, Anna and I. In return we bought her a five-dollar rum cocktail. As we sat on the patio, only a few other people had arrived but the main restaurant was still mostly filled with diners. Karen decided to enjoy her cocktail in the pool and proceeded to remove her clothes, revealing a one piece she wore underneath, shortly, after which a staff member instructed her to put her clothes back on and remove herself from the water. Not too long afterwards a couple of younger women in small bathing suits jumped in but not one said anything to them. Now wet and slightly intoxicated she sat on the patio chairs with us drinking a rum punch looking sad. I felt like sitting down next to her, putting my arm over her shoulder and saying, “Sweetie some people are just mean. It’s not about who you are on the outside.” But in reality it is about who you are on the outside and since Karen was in her fifties I figured she knew that by now.
The next few days we didn't see or hear from Karen. We spent each day at The Regatta only slightly watching the race. With barely enough wind to fill their sails the race wasn't as exciting as it might have been were the weather different. The stalls at the Regatta Park were filled with vendors. Bahamian fair food, conch fried or ceviche style, hamburgers, jerk chicken, Kalik and the surprisingly tasty Sky Juice which is gin, coconut milk and coconut water over ice.  I bought conch fritters from a woman wearing a Publix apron. Each evening they had music at the park. One night Gary, Anna and I watched a once famous Bahamian musician named Jay Mitchell. He performed soul music in a Bahamian-Blue outfit studded with rhinestones and glitter, the shirt entirely open exposing his sweaty chest. As he sang local strung out drunken Rastas, some of who were passed out earlier during the race awoke from their stupor to sway around him. My favorite was his new song Gotta Keep My Belly Full which made the Rastas rub their bellies in circles as he sang
“Gotta keep my belly full Gotta keep my belly full
Like a Rasta I don’t eat no pork
But I’ll eat a lobster
without a knife and a fork
Gotta keep my belly full”
The day after the Regatta, Gary returned to Great Exuma. Philip, Anna and I decided to hitchhike south to see what we'd see. Unlike the other Bahamian islands no one was quick to give us a ride. Eventually a white pick up pulled over with two British guys. Curly and John were developers building a marina in Stella Maris, on the north side of the island. They were from Andorra, a country that none of us had heard of and sounded more like a region in Narnia than 181 sq miles of land between Spain and France. However they had wheels so we hopped in. They gave us a lift to Max's Famous Conch Bar. We had a few beers, used the wifi and chatted with John and Curly. At Max's Anna received an email from Karen. She was at a restaurant nearby with her friend Bren, who'd flown in a couple days before. We got a ride from a guy leaving Max's and he took us down a dirt road that led to the coast. He left us at the tiny restaurant where Karen's rental car was the only one occupying the parking lot. Outside a baby white goat clip clopped around the wooden patio. Inside Karen, wearing pajamas gave us warm hugs introduced us to her friend Bren and insisted that we share their lunch of fresh lobster and salad with them. Karen told us she still hadn't found her parcels of land and was beginning to worry if they even existed. Unable to reach the person who'd sold them to her things were looking sketchy.
Bren was the kind of person you met and were suddenly old friends. She said whatever came to her mind, which was often inappropriate but funny. She was Karen's antithesis peppy and exuberant in contrast to Karen's exhausted aura. Bren was large but somehow more demur than Karen. An accurate personal ad would describe her as voluptuous. She wore make up. Karen wore pajamas. It was obvious she spent time getting ready in the morning. She also made Karen switch accommodations from Chez Pierre to a rental house on the southern end of the island near Clarence Town because she needed air conditioning. Bren and Karen were lesbian friends who'd met online and hung out two or three times before.
As lunch concluded Curly and John wandered into the restaurant on their Sunday ritual Bar Beer Hop. I mentioned to Karen that they were developers and might have information related to her property. Karen interrogated Curly on what he knew. After hearing the details Curly told Karen she'd likely been taken. Curly also informed Karen that there wasn't much legal recourse she could pursue, that the modern day pirates of the Bahamas were in the business of selling titles to land that didn't exist. Karen maintained a positive self-depreciating sense of humor on finding out she'd probably lost $40,00 she held up her glass and said, "here's to me getting screwed in the Bahamas." She laughed but you could tell it hurt.
After lunch we went with Karen and Bren to Dean's Blue Hole, the world's largest. Anna and I chatted with Bren and floated 663 feet above the bottom of the hole while Karen and Philip snorkeled. As we were leaving Karen received a call on her cell. It was a reporter from Illinois calling for her reaction to the symphony opting to not renew her contract. The newspaper must have read "Symphony Conductor Startled." Karen, unaware of the decision until the reporter called was in shock. She asked more questions of the reporter than he did of her.
While Karen drove, Bren in the passenger seat and the three of us in the back Philip made implications as to his sexual prowess. The fact that Karen and Bren were lesbians on a vacation together didn't inhibit Philip from overtly flirting with Bren. Bren, the playful type, flirted back. A lot of it involved talk about sticking things in butts, spankings and putting things in one another’s mouths. Thinking of her friend's day Bren suggested we get wine, quick. We stopped at a restaurant (liquor stores in the Bahamas are closed Sundays) and Bren bought us dinner and wine to go. While we waited for our food Karen went for a swim in the restaurant pool. I hoped no one kicked her out this time.

At the rental house Bren and Philip, still flirting, unpacked the to go boxes and plated dinner for everyone. Conversation at dinner became overtly sexual. Bren was winking and whispering to Anna. Philip was winking at Bren and Karen looked strung out. She made a comment I can’t quite recall, likely because I was startled when she began to remove her shirt. I had the bad feeling everyone was about to get naked and since I was only interested in seeing one person at the table naked I was thankful when Karen put her shirt back down and with that the conversation changed directions. But after dinner the conversation moved back towards sex when Karen sat on the floor while Bren, Anna and I sat on one couch and Philip on the other. Karen became hyper-talkative. Karen and Bren talked about vibrators, shapes, designs, wattage. She made Bren out to be a sort of wishy washy lesbian because she used to be married. Karen only had sex with a man once, when she was in her mid twenties and described it as awful and completely unsatisfying. Her entire life her Christian family made her afraid of sex with men. It was treated as something bad and dirty; to be avoided and so not to disappoint them family she became a lesbian. “Maybe I need to give men another chance, just for the hell of It.,” she said. Eventually Bren went to bed and Anna and I did shortly after. As I was getting a glass of water Philip and Karen were looking out the window at the lightning.
The next morning on the way into the kitchen I didn’t notice anyone awake. When I turned around Philip crept in and whispered
“Dude I have to tell you something.” 
“What?” I whispered back
“I had sex with Karen.”
“Really? What? Oh my god Philip. Not uh. Really? She’s a lesbian.”
“Yea. I know. She came out of her room and was like Philip I want to have sex with you.”
“If anything I thought you’d have sex with Bren or both of them.”
“I know me too. How old do you think she is?”
“Old. But it doesn’t matter. You did the right thing. She was having a bad day. Philip, just think, how many men can say they slept with a lesbian, orchestra conductor nearly twice their size and age?"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No One In Harbour Island Likes Us

If you ask Anna, Philip and I which place we enjoyed the most out of the 30+ we stopped in through The Bahamas we all agree Harbour Island was one of the best.

Harbour Island lies just east of the Eleutheran main land in what would be described as the Central Bahamas. It''s known as a luxury destination and isn't as regularly frequented by cruising sailboats. It likes to promote it's pink sand beaches, which is a result of the extensive coral that skirts the shore being crushed by the waves. While Harbour Island has some cars the main method of transportation is golf carts. The town is cute with lots of flowers but not too cute where it feels sterile. There are beautiful houses and ones that are barely standing, both adding to the character. We arrived in Harbour Island from Little Harbor, about fifty nautical miles north in the Abacos.

On the sail from Little Harbor to Harbour Island the sea was becalmed but the storm clouds weaved around us. Each time I put on my foul weather gear the clouds would clear out of our way. When stripped back to my bathing suit the clouds reappeared, looking dark and ominous. Again I changed back and the clouds disappeared which made me impressed me and I thought, "Is this what they meant by rain proof?" Along the way we hooked a massive Bull Dolphin upwards of 60lbs. It flashed metallic blues and greens each time it leapt from the water. Once aboard we filled its gills with vodka. It sounds strange but through other sailors we learned that this is the best way to subdue a fish that is thrashing about deck and beating you with its tail. Chris then filleted a weeks worth of fish.

The entrance to Harbour Island from the north is named The Devils Backbone and sounds like something from a Pirate's of the Caribbean. Our charts and guides highly recommended using a pilot to navigate The Backbone as it was a combination of dangerous reef and shoals only navigable by eye and experience. Our pilot, John Roberts met us less than a mile from The Backbone. He tied his boat to our stern, climbed aboard and took the helm. He was from Spanish Wells and sounded half British. He smoked Viceroys and worked as a chef aboard a Lobster boat during the season. In the off-season he worked as a pilot and a fishing guide. True to it's name the backbone was sprinkled with coral patches, at times we were less than 10 yards from the crashing waves at the beach and others, as the backbone zagged we were more than 150 yards from shore. On the way to Harbour Island he pointed out Man Island. He said Man Island had wild goats and was a pleasant anchorage. The possibility of capturing a wild goat filled my mind. I'd place it's horns on the bowsprit, I thought.John deposited us at a nice anchorage in between Valentine's Marina and Ramora Bay Marina.

A few days after leaving Hopetown in the Abacos my back went out. Not out, as in, it was partying and having a good time, out, as in severe pain and completely not working. After a few days it cleared up but I needed to get some muscle relaxers at some point in case it happened again. Aboard a boat, in the middle of the ocean, the pharmaceuticals you carry are important, you can't simply run down to the corner CVS. So in Harbour Island I went to the government clinic to visit the doctor. We'd done this before in the Abacos. The Bahamas has great subsidized medicine. A doctor visit is $30 and a prescription somewhere between two to five dollars. Anna and I made an appointment to come back and see the doctor on our way out to dinner. When we arrived we each had two beers in hand to prevent us from buying them at the restaurant where they were more expensive. The doctor asked me about my back and then wrote me a prescription for fifty muscle relaxers. He then counseled us on abusing alcohol. Afterward he said we owed him $100. I told him he was confused that the cost was written on the wall, right above the price for having a baby (free). Eventually, after a little whining he accepted the $30.

Our anchorage off the Ramora Bay Club was perfect for us because the marina had showers that were unlocked which meant we didn't have to shower in the ocean. It also meant we didn't have to shower in the outdoor shower of stranger's vacation homes as we did in Hopetown. We had free, hot freshwater showers only a short dinghy ride away. Chris and Amber had left to go back to the States for a Jimmy Buffet concert and Philip, Anna and I decided to go snorkeling. The sun was set to broil, the most intense it had been yet and we welcomed the heat. On the way back to the boat we stopped to pickup my prescription. At the food stand next door I asked the young Bahamian behind the counter if he had any old food to give us. He gave us a large tray of french fries and invited us out with him. Shawn had a nice smile and told us he was excited to party. We agreed to meet up with him later that night.

Early that evening at the marina, while we waited for Anna to finish showering Philip and I walked up to the bar at Ramora Bay. There we met two older men, Chuck and Brian, both wasted. Brian was nice and strongly resembled Brian Dennehy. He looked like someone who'd been told by his doctor to lay off red meat. Chuck was a bit younger and much louder. Both had Boston accents. Chuck asked us if we liked Jimmy Buffet. We said, yeah of course. Chuck's daughter was the first mate of Buffet's ship, The Continental Drifter,  her fiancee the captain. He told us if we got him wasted he'd tell us it was going to be off Andros Island from May 3-10. Philip and I looked at each other confused because he'd just told us exactly where and when to find Jimmy. He then went on to boast about how he'd been fishing with Buffet, got high with him, what a nice guy he was and so forth. He even called him Jim which irritated me. I hate when people try to act like they know celebrities like "oh me and Brad (as in Pitt) were going to meet Angie as in (Angelina)." I find it humiliating to everyone involved.

Chuck and Brian were in Harbour Island to fish on Chuck's 38ft. Bertram. Brian came down yesterday and tomorrow was their first day out but it was clear that tonight was to be spent getting hammered.. Anna who had now found us at the bar asked if we could go fishing with them tomorrow. They happily agreed with Chuck's condition that Philip bring a few joints and then offered to give us a lift into town on the golf cart they'd rented. As we had our dirty clothes, shampoo, soap and loofahs we asked for a few minutes to take everything back to the boat. They assured us they'd be waiting and we agreed to be back in ten minutes.

Ten minutes later the Ramora Bay Marina Bar was empty. We climbed back into the dinghy and tied up about a quarter mile north at Valentine's Marina in the center of town. After two blocks of walking we saw Chuck stumbling towards a restaurant from the other side of the street coughing and hacking heavily.
"Hey Chuck! You left us. Are you okay?" Philip asked.
"Yeah I just had a sneeze attack and had to go outside."
"You mean you just had a vomit attack and had to go puke." Philip retorted as Chuck walked back into the restaurant.

The three of us continued walking in an attempt to find something cheap and fun. We carried with us bottle of vodka stuffed in a sock. On the boat all bottles are stowed in socks so they don't break at sea. Approaching a hill we saw two bicycles coming towards us, as they got closer we saw it was a young couple. I'm unsure if we initiated it or they did but we began chatting with Paige, a blond fair skinned Alabamian and his cheerful new bride Jessica. They lived in California but had just gotten married and were on their honeymoon. We learned they were staying at Ramora Bay and informed them that is where we shower. After a few minutes of discussing what there was two do three golf carts pulled up and Jessica and Paige smiled and said, "Hey Duke!" Two of the men got off the golf carts, took the bikes from Jessica and Paige and insisted they ride in cart. "We're going to Vic-Hums" someone said. Quickly, Anna and I jumped in the back of a cart and Philip in the front seat next to Duke.
"Where are you headed." said Duke as if to say, he didn't know us and certainly didn't invite us to go anywhere with him
"Wherever this carts going, we're going." said Philip
Duke was from Michigan, middle aged, with gray hair and matching stubble. His parents owned a home on Harbour Island and he and his buddies, the guys on the other carts were down for a visit.
"What's in the sock" said Duke
"Vodka." said Philip "You want a pull?"
"A pull?"
"Yeah a pull-a -vodka"
"A pullavodka?
"Yes. Want one?"
"What the hell uh a pullavodka?"
"What do you mean? A pull you know like you put it to your lips and take a pull-a-vodka."
"I have no idea what you're talking about"
"You guys, this joker has no idea what a pull-a-vodka is." Philip said to Anna and I as if Duke wasn't there. We laughed but also hoped not to lose our ride.
"I've heard of a tractor pull,  a shot of vodka, but never head of a pull-a-vodka.
"It's just putting it to your lips, it's not that big of deal. I'm just offering you a drink."
"No thanks." mumbled Duke, irritated he'd let us in his cart.

At Vic-Hums we ordered water with lime to go with our sock of vodka. Vic-Hums was a large club and though it wasn't a place tourists would hang out it featured what they claimed was the world's largest coconut behind the bar. At the back was a large dance floor and a basketball court that was fully enclosed except for the roof and surrounded by tables. Philip came out of the bathroom looking startled.
"You okay Philip?" I asked
"Some guy just closed the door on me and put an eight ball in my hand. When I tried to hand it back to him he didn't want to take it." 
"What'd you say?"
"Well, I said, it's cool man but I don't really need any of this and then handed it back to him."

Outside we ran into the skinny Bahamian with little teeth who sold Philip pot the day before. He gave us half his blunt and left. Back inside for more water someone said "everybody come outside, quick."
What we couldn't hear from inside was a marching Junkannoo band. Twenty or so Bahamians dressed in yellow feathers and white t-shirts marched down the street with tubas, trombones, cow bells, maracas and every drum you could imagine, even giant oil drums converted to drums. They danced and shook violently, to the beat of Junkannoo, a mixture of Caribbean and African rhythms. Philip, Anna and I joined the band. We spilled our drinks as we danced with them in the street and played on their drums.  When the band moved on down the road everyone climbed back on the carts and headed to Gusty's.

Gusty's was a small bar but what was unique about it was the floor inside was entirely sand. The bar was on a hill which allowed the patio off the back some elevation and a nice clear view of the sea. I drank and talked to Paige and Duke's friends. There we met up with Shawn who was happy to see us. Anna danced with Shawn and Jessica until Philip started dancing with Jessica.  What was initially innocent hey we're having fun dancing quickly morphed into Philip and Jessica having sex with their clothes on. Anna grabbed my arm and asked me if i saw what was happening. She then asked if Paige had seen and told me to distract him so he wouldn't get upset. However conversation with Paige was quite dull and since I really didn't enjoy talking to him I suggested he go find his wife. Philip and Jessica had finished and Philip was now playing pool, barefoot with an old Bahamian.

Shawn then encouraged us to go with him to Daddy-D's, a regular club packed with large black women. Philip quickly found the comfort of three giant black women that ate more for lunch that day than his entire body weight. He danced and sweated all over them, which means a lot when you consider how much of them there was. Anna and I argued about something stupid outside on the patio. When I went to get Philip to see if he was ready to leave, which he clearly was not Anna had taken off.  From the patio I could see her far down the street. I grabbed Philip and we went chasing her. The roads on Harbour Island are somewhat confusing, especially at night. Everything looked the same. We yelled "Anna." repeatedly which only scared the stray chickens. I found a golf cart in someone's driveway and decided to borrow it. It started immediately and Philip jumped in.
"Do you see her?"
"I can't see anything." said Philip
"This stupid windshield." as Philip started to push on the windshield trying to force it open.
"Yes but it's clear."
"It's very hazy to me."
I stopped the cart and opened the windshield for Philip. 

We drove to Valentine's the most logical place to meet since that was where our dinghy was tied. While Philip was in the bathroom Anna wandered up the dock. I left the golf cart in front of Valentine's and we returned to the boat.

The next morning at 8:00, all of us severely hungover, Philip said, "Hey Jeff, let's go see if those guys are going fishing." We dinghied over to Ramora Bay and found Brian drinking a Gatorade and smoking a cigarette on the stern of their boat. He looked at us strangely as if seeing someone he couldn't quite place. When we asked him about going fishing his memory jogged he invited us aboard. He told us Chuck was still sleeping. We sat and he offered us Gatorade and told us he was living in Boca Raton. When him and Chuck lived in Boston they started a big tuna fishing club and they used to bring in giants and sell them and split the earnings. Chuck then stumbled out of the sliding glass door of the Bertram, a large gash ran the length of his femur. He looked at us like he'd never seen us. Philip started laughing and said, "Chuck what the hell, you're bleeding all over the place, dude you need to do something about that. What did you do to yourself?"
 Chuck looked down, clearly unaware of the large gash and blew it off as if it was nothing.
Brian told Chuck we came over to see if they were going and that we wanted to join them. Philip and I looked at each other confused, we knew we discussed this last night. Chuck grabbed a Gatorade and said yeah we'll leave in a bit. It was clear neither of them intended to go fishing, that they didn't really care for us but we'd pinned them into going anyways.

Philip and I dinghied back to get Anna and a couple joints. We quickly made breakfast and arrived back at the Bertram. Aboard the fishing boat Chuck handled all the fishing lines. He carefully baited the ballyhoo and selected lures to ride in front of each one. He placed two lines on each outrigger and ran four lines off the back. Anna, Philip and I drank Budweiser from their cooler as Chuck worked. We offered to help but only half meaning it because he seemed to know how he wanted things done more than he wanted to explain anything. Chuck and Brian barely spoke to each other the entire day. Philip passed around the joints and everyone smoked except Brian. Chuck talked a lot about Jimmy Buffet. He'd forgotten everything he told us the night before and went through the same old "me and Jim stories." He also talked about his daughter and working for the Buffet's. He seemed happier with the life his daughter had made than his own. Philip caught a Barracuda and Anna a medium sized mahi mahi. Up on the fly bridge I told Brian about plans Philip, Anna and I had made to sail over to Man Island and catch a wild goat. He became instantly appalled. "Why would you want to kill a goat." he asked disgusted.
"To eat it. Why do you fish?"
"Hey Chuck, these guys are planning to kill a goat." he hollered to Chuck.
"What? Is that true? Why would you want to kill a goat" echoed Chuck with the same disgust of Brian.
"For goat meat." answered Philip
Brian shook his head with irritation. It amazed me that men who flew from Boca to Harbour Island, who invested thousands in gasoline, bait, lures, rods and reels and boat to load up a freezer full fish couldn't understand capturing one wild goat. Back at the dock Chuck filleted the mahi and bagged it for us. We thanked the two of them for taking us out and they hoped to never see us again.

That evening Jessica and Paige came over for fish tacos. After dinner we put on a clothes one step up from a bathing suit in hopes of crashing a wedding at the Pink Sands. Earlier in the week we discovered it was "The Cohen" wedding. We stopped with Jessica and Paige in their room and smoked a joint which made Anna and I giddy. Like two teenagers we couldn't stop laughing. At the Pink Sands we were approached by the concierge and never stopped walking but said, "Cohen wedding" as we passed, He directed us to the beach restaurant where the reception was being held. Approaching the wedding we heard the familiar sound of Hava-Nagila. The five of us stood there and watched men in suits and women in evening gowns celebrate. The couple was older, probably in their mid forties. We clearly did not fit in both because of our attire and age. After the song someone announced for everyone to take their seats. Everyone scrambled like a game of musical chairs except for us. We stood their clearly out of place, with every seat occupied until one of the waiters said, "You cannot be here. This is not for you." We quietly left through the back. Outside the Junkanoo band from the night before was waiting to perform. Some of the guys from last night remembered us with their smiles.

Walking the streets of Harbour Island looking for somewhere to party we heard music and saw lights from a large building. As we approached it appeared to be a house. Through the door I saw people dancing. When the five of us approached the doorway a woman came running, probably to invite us inside I thought. Instead, she closed the door after saying "private party."

A few days later, after we did our laundry in the showers at the Ramora Bay Marina the dockmaster locked the showers and gave each registered boat a key. I imagine him going to Chuck and Brian handing them a key and saying, "Sorry to do this but it's because of those kids on the sailboat anchored just over there." Brian and Chuck would nod, knowing exactly what he meant by "those kids."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Surviving on Bread and Chicken

From the harbor in Hopetown the tops of Palm trees look like Dandelions. I imagine the fronds coming off and scattering across the island. A rooster, with his clock set on Greenwich time cock-a-doodles hours to early.

Chris wanted to bake bread. He tried in Tallahassee before we left. Amber, Chris, Anna and I stood in the kitchen, we all held a broken piece in our hand, our mouths chewing looking at each other waiting for someone to react. Eventually someone decided it was terrible which allowed the rest of us to agree. Before we left Ft. Lauderdale we stocked up on just-add-water brownies, muffins and biscuits. Chris tried a few more times to make bread but the problem with bread is it requires attention. Let it rise too long, don't kneed it enough you're going to have bad bread. Since watching bread rise isn't one of Chris's strengths, it never came out right. So for the first month on board Desdemona we settled for generic label white bread. Low in nutritional value, nearly tasteless and filled with preservatives that are great aboard the humid environment of a sailboat.

When Philip arrived he'd brought with him a handheld compass, a magnesium strip for starting fires, a poncho and a two tape set narrated by Burt Reynolds titled "Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook." The front cover read, "HOW TO: Escape from quicksand, Wrestle an Alligator, Break down a door, Land a plane...." The tapes featured Burt explaining  how to survive a bear attack, a shark attack, how to leap from a motorcycle to a car and how to escape from killer bees. When anyone questioned Philip on why this was important information his response was "Ya never know bro. Anything could happen." We also had on board two machetes and a hatchet. Obviously what we thought we were going to experience was misaligned with reality. Bahamian life and cultures, because of it's proximity to America, is basically American culture. While they fish and eat conch, they buy their chicken from Tyson.

The streets and homes of Hopetown are what guidebooks would describe as quaint. The houses have an artificially sweet feel and feature annoying names like Sanddollar or Crows Nest written on planks of driftwood painted pastel pink, green or blue. The only redeeming feature are the five or six stray chickens that reside in the town. Walking down a back street in Hopetown  the unmistakable smell of cinnamon alerted us to the bakery. It was coming from a grocery store named Vernon's. As we entered the store just past the cashier was a wall of freshly baked breads, pastries and pies. I picked up a banana bread and put it back after noticing it was $12. I walked around and noticed brie and asparagus which I hadn't seen since leaving the States. Chris purchased a baguette. Next to the cash register was a door to Vernon's bakery. Were the store more sophisticated the door would read employee only but since it didn't the four of us wandered into the bakery. Here we found an old frail man with the body language and voice of an effeminate Droopy. He seemed like he'd be easy to offend and you could picture him saying, "oh my." His hair was thin and white matching the apron he wore. He introduced himself as Vernon. Philip made a comment about the irony of the store also being named Vernon. He informed us it was his store and he was the baker. Chris explained how he'd been trying to make bread but that it wasn't working out so well. Chris asked if it be possible for him to teach us and Vernon agreed. He told us he starts baking at 7:000 am and we were welcome to join him.

The four of us walked down the street laughing about our bread baking lesson and enjoying the baguette Chris bought. At the end of the street were two benches along the water that overlooked the harbor entrance. It was low tide and the darker blue narrow strip of the channel contrasted starkly with the light green of the shoals and shallows that surrounded it.  Boats entering the harbor ignored the No Wake sign. Anna had a photo shoot with a stray cat. We could see a sailboat aground across the bay, laying on it's side as if it was just taking a short nap.

On the way back to the boat, in front of the church near Vernon's grocery a group of stray chickens, a rooster, a large hen and two adolescents pecked at the ground. They clucked and scratched all the while looking really stupid, hardly aware of our presence. I picked up a rock expecting an easy kill but not looking forward to the work that would ensue i.e. feathers, innards and blood. Most people are unaware but the Bahamian Chicken is the most intelligent creature in all of the Bahamas. My target chicken, the large female, with spider-man like awareness sensed the impending danger and just as the rock was about to pummel it's stupid bird head it quickly side-stepped the rock. Then in a split second all the chickens made a permanent imprint of what I looked like, smelled like and sounded like and quickly scattered clucking with fear. Okay, well, maybe next time, I thought.

Vernon had been baking for over 45 years. His favorite thing to make was pie and throughout the day several people stopped by to find out when the pies would be done. Vernon was the minister at the church where I tried to murder the chickens. It was a Methodist church which was good because he didn't seem the fire and brimstone type. He told us he liked to start all his sermons off with a joke. Vernon was nice but I couldn't imagine him trying to make a joke, rather I couldn't imagine anyone laughing. Vernon liked to talk about politics. After his neighbor across the street, a black Bahamian who ran a fast food joint popped his head in he told me we have different opinions but we like to chat and talk issues. Whatever his politics it was clear he valued rules. When a man walked out  a door labeled "entrance" he got huffy and started to whine about the way things are supposed to be done. Vernon pulled out several trays of cinnamon buns that were ready to be glazed. When he popped over into the market for a second we each tried the glaze on our fingers. Anna noticed that it tasted like he added lime to it. He'd made a dozen for us and invited us to enjoy them.We did. After they cooled he asked for help packing them up.

When Philip, Anna and I were walking by Vernon's church the chickens were back. A Bahamian woman had told us how they use to trap chickens on Mayaguana as a child. Philip and I asked Vernon if we could borrow a milk crate and some string while Anna kept an eye on our prey. A Bahamian woman at the snack shop across from Vernon's gave us some bread to use as bait. "Why you want to catch those chickens anyways," she asked? "Because they're made out of chicken." Philip answered. We set a trap on the sidewalk to the church, breadcrumbs leading to the crate which was propped up with a small stick attached to the string.. Philip waited on the other end of the string while I spooked the chickens towards Philip. Locals and tourist walked by as if we didn't exist. The chickens immediately remembered me and headed towards Philip clucking at a higher tempo than before. One of the adolescent chickens pecked at the bread almost completely underneath the trap. Eventually the large female pecked her way underneath the milk crate and as Philip pulled the string the chickens outwitted us again, escaping while the trap fells backwards.

We tried two more times to catch the Hopetown chickens. On Philip's birthday, our final hunt, I made contact with one when I tried to swat it with a piece of wood but lost it in the brush. Eventually the chickens knew us so well they'd move into the brush before we could even get them in sight. We'd just here them racing down the street, their high tempo clucking that says, "I am afraid bok bok bok someone is after me bok bok bok." We'd I ordered the cake from Vernon for Philip's birthday he like he'd never seen me before. I tried to tell him, "It's for Philip, it's his birthday, you remember Philip?" He mumbled something and left. The cake was dry but Philip ate it anyway.

After Hopetown we wouldn't see a grocery store until we reached Eluethera, more than a week away. Before we left we stocked up on Tyson chicken leg quarters and five loaves of bread.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Knowing Where You Are

I'm not sure why a horizontally growing palm tree evokes the idea of paradise more than a normal upright palm tree but it does. It's just like teriyaki. Nobody knows what teriyaki really is or where it comes from but everybody eats it. Which is why I assume it's a terayaki thing, something I wasn't meant to understand, when the man at the Supermercado in the Dominican Republic gives me three pieces of hard candy instead of my change. I tilt my head down towards my hand and walk out the door reminding myself it's not good to think too much about these type of things like why horseback riding isn't just called horse riding which is what we did the next day in the mountains.

I like to think my horse, Indecent Proposal and I had at least one of the same genes. Whenever Anna and I go for a walk or a hike I subconsciously prevent her from getting ahead of me, for some reason my brain thinks that I have to be ahead. She'd complain and I'd wait for her but soon I'd be thirty yards up ahead. Indecent Proposal had the same issue, whenever she sensed any other horse close to overtaking her she'd giddy giddy giddy up on ahead. It's nice to think we have something in common, that if our brains were laid out on a surgical table and examined a scientist could pin point the problem we have, "See it's right there, that frayed nerve, it's what causes them to think they're being left behind." But it's probably that Indecent Proposal just didn't care to stare at other horse's asses.  

At our first bar in Aruba the bartender served me what I assumed to be a free sample of a beer in a green bottle that read "Balashi." It was in a bottle of what a woman would describe as "cute", because it's exactly the same as a regular beer bottle but half the size which makes me wonder why no one thinks midgets are cute. I ordered a Polar next and it came in the same 8oz bottle. Even Budweiser had been shrunk which seemed very un-American. We don't make things smaller, I thought. Clearly there was a mistake. I then asked the waiter if perhaps these beers were for children and he informed me that all beer in Aruba is this size. "Anything bigger would get warm before you could drink it." At first I thought this response funny but then it simply started to piss me off. Their Cokes were the same size. I knew I wasn't going to let this go with the unacceptable answer I received.  Staring at this baby bottle of beer was especially annoying as the beer in DR was served in 40oz bottles. Meaning, five beers in Aruba is equal to one Dominican beer. At the next five bars I asked why the beer here was so small and they all echoed the first answer I received about it getting warm. It was as if every citizen had been given beer propaganda. What I've discovered is nobody knows why the beer is smaller, it just is or at least if they know they're not telling.

Last night I watched an old documentary narrated by smarmy Richard Dreyfus called The Search for Longitutde. The reason they were searching was before the hero of the documentary, John Harrison invented a marine chronometer, ships were unable to determine their east to west location (longitude). And until his invention which is really just a watch that can survive the conditions of ocean travel no one really knew where they were exactly. The other scientists of the 1700's including Newton believed the answer to the problem was in astronomy, that they could map certain stars and the angle from which they appeared to a mariner would determine the location of the ship. Everyone agreed that if you knew the time you could determine longitude it was just that no one believed a timekeeper could be built that would remain precise during ocean travel. Harrison, after a lifetime of working on a solution finally was able to build a watch that worked at sea.

Later when I'm lying in bed, awake, the waves slapping the side of the boat as it dances back and forth with the wind I keep repeating the line "Knowing where you are is simply a matter of knowing the time." As the waves have their way with the boat I'm reassured by knowing this because whatever it means it's true and it reminds me of being five years old and telling my mom with absolute confidence, "one million times zero equals zero." I reach my hand up to grab the phone,  look at the  the time, it was 1:17 in the morning. Then I turned to Anna who is sleeping and say, "one million time zero equals zero."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peed on her face

If you've ever tried to pee on your lovers foot while they stand on one leg, the other in the air hovering over a toilet, while trying not to pee on anything else then you've probably spent some time in the ocean. Playing at Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay, Chris and Anna both stepped on something sharp that left stinging brown bits in their feet. This is when Anna, with tears in the pockets of her eyes said, "Will you pee on me? And I look her in the eyes and in my best soap opera actor impression say, "Anna, I will pee on your foot." Sometimes you need someone to pee on your foot.

Which is why I found it beautiful when I saw the old Colombian couple sitting in Starbucks enjoying something I heard described as "frapalicious," a drink more closely resembling a milkshake than coffee; and as they leaned over the small cafe table, the woman looked into the eyes of the man she loves as he popped pimples on his darling's face. I wondered if she ever said, "pis en mi pie mi amor" and surely he'd pee on her foot to relieve her pain. 

Or maybe it's less about love and more like the produce farmers in the Dominican Republic. The farmers harvest beautiful organic pineapples, avocados, carrots and cucumbers but rather than setup a small stand they take to the road. They drive around with megaphones, a PA system attached to the roof of their pickups, the back of which is loaded with produce and cruise up and down the streets of the town announcing, "Hermosa piña. Aguacate Delicious. Hortalizas frescas en la actualidad." In otherwords, we really need to sell some vegetables so please come buy some because they are delicious.  And though the natural result of growing vegetables is not to drive around like it's wartime, trying to spread propaganda. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And as I'm adding the period to that last sentence I think that sounds a lot like war even though it's not, it's just trying to unload some avocados and driving around blasting the streets with a loudspeaker is the best they've come up with.

In the case of the sea biscuit Anna stepped on it was war, when suddenly her foot came crashing through the water and the only way it had to defend itself was releasing hundreds of little brown painful spines into her foot. While my the chemical reaction of my urine neutralized the stinging it was the spines still in her foot that posed the threat of infection and required removal. I sat poking at her foot with a small sewing needle trying to remove the spines amused by the irony of digging out small needles with larger needles. When a Bahamian woman suggested we use hot water and baking soda, that if we did the spines would fall right out; I thought anything is better than digging holes in my girlfriend's foot. Ideas like this surprise you when they work, the ones that sound crazy, like driving around trying to sell vegetables over a PA system.

It was yesterday when I came across another way to get the pain out, a totally hot water and baking soda, yelling into a PA system to sell veggies kind of way. When Anna picked up her bag to throw it in the back of the car she swung it around and 1.5 liter of vodka she had in it punched her in the face. Tears started to drip down her cheeks and since it was raining outside I thought of her face as a windshield. When I said, "Usually vodka only knocks you out when you drink it." and she started to laugh and all the warm swelling she was feeling in her jaw diminished. And she said to me, "I love you because you make me laugh when I'm upset." and I realize I've just peed on her face. I start to think of all the times she's peed on me. All the times we've peed on each other and I wonder if this is what they mean when they say that love is chemical.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bill Gates

In Aruba the entrance to the Renaissance Marina a small red helicopter sits on a jetty waiting to take tourist on island tours. The rotors slowly spinning, the engine at idle and everyone can sense what is about to happen. On the opposite side of the entrance the cruiseships loaded with passengers from America climb off the boat to attack the shops that line the waterfront. Each morning when we go to shore and pass the helicopter on one side and the cruiseships on the other I can't help but think of Bill Gates.
We were in Hopetown, it was April and Anna spent the morning doing her taxes. Feeling productive, we decided to go for a walk, hoping to see the rest of Elbow Cay. On the way out of town a man in a flatbed truck pulled over and gave us a ride out of town. The truck pulled into a hardware store and we hopped out. On the ride we saw a couple hand painted signs in the shape of an ice cream cone with the words "Sugar Shack." painted in script. We decided to walk back towards the signs and see where they'd take us. Following the signs we turned off the main road and walked a few hundred yards. I began to smell basil and rosemary. On the right hand side of the road was a driveway where a golf cart was parked with two men in it. Walking past we waved and admired the garden in the yard where they sat. The size of three or four basketball courts, it was filled with greens, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and more herbs than I can remember. In front of each group of plants was a marker that was finely printed that said, "I am Mexican Parsley" or "I am cabbage." The garden was designed not in the familiar rows you'd expect but in a way much more beautiful, the way Disney would design a garden, incorporating, rocks, arbors, shells, with twists and curves along the path.  I admired the cayenne peppers dancing in the breeze, their smooth glossy skin shimmered in the sun making them look deceptively juicy and sweet and not my-mouth-is-a-volcano hot. Just past the garden was a small liquor store. Anna and I went in and purchased two Sands Light and wandered back to the garden out of curiosity.

The two men waved us over to their golf cart and introduced themselves. Marcel was tan and alcoholic skinny, with large ears and eyes. He said he just turned 83. His Dick Van Dyke's smile combined with the name Marcel made him look French. He spoke with the wild enthusiasm of someone working a crowd, like he expected you to leave was trying to tell you everything he could before that happened. He leaned in when he told stories like he was about to reveal a big secret which made me think he had a lot of them, stories, not secrets. He introduced Bill Gates, the man sitting next to him as Crocodile Dundee. Billy Gates was 46, blond and could have passed for Paul Hogan in a dark room. He wore his hair back in a ponytail and owned a construction company on Elbow Cay. The garden was Billy's and the house behind which it sat his girlfriend's. She'd left that morning for New York where she worked coordinating fashion shows. As the four of us drank and smoked on the golfcart and tried to get to know each other Marcel would sidetrack the conversation by announcing one of Billy's gifts.

"What's your name again?" asked Marcel for the third time.
"Jeff, do you know this, I am 71 years old and this is my good friend the Crocodile Dundee? Like I told you this is Crocodile Dundee, you know the movie that this here is him, right here in the flesh." He goes right out there in the blue water and man I'll tell you...."and then he'd pause as if he'd suddenly run out of batteries and then suddenly start back up..."I'll tell you he goes right out and sees a shark he wrestles it."
"I thought you just turned 83?" Anna said.
Marcel said, "No I am 71, just turned 71."

Billy was a free diving spearfisherman and dealt with sharks not by retreating but by being the aggressor and spearing them too. "I just see the sharks and I don't like to run so I go for them with my spear." echoed Billy. "Tiger sharks, bull sharks it doesn't matter, you see them all here in the Bahamas." Marcel satisfied to be the friend of such a man put on a smile so big it doesn't fit his head and nods.

Billy encourages us to walk through the garden and pick anything we like and leaves to grab a few plastic bags.

"What's your name?" Marcel asks pointing his finger at me like a gun and looking at me with one eye shut.
"Jeff, you don't have to worry about me. I am as harmless as an unborn kitten. Do you know I used to build fixed and rotor wing aircraft? I even built myself a gyrocopter but crashed it in the ocean."
He held up his hand and said, "Honest, to god. I am not a liar and would never tolerate myself if I were. And I'll tell you something else. What's your name?
"Jeff, me and Billy have been building a cruise ship, it's almost done too, we've been building it for two years."
"If I'm lying you can cut my lips off."

Billy returned and took us on a tour through his garden. As we walked he'd stop and hold each plant and say, "Do you like dill?" and cut large swaths of it. Eggplants, fennel, marjoram, spinach, tomatoes, Billy gave us some of everything. As he was taking us through the garden a neighbor came over and asked Billy for a few tomatoes. He gladly obliged. The mangoes, guavas and bananas were not ripe but he loaded us up with vegetables and herbs.

Back on the golf cart Billy suggested we drive up to the liquor store (literally the next property over) and refill on beer. Anna and I suggested we go see their cruise ship. Marcel excitedly agreed as long as we didn't reveal it's whereabouts to anyone. One the way over Marcel told us he'd just turned 73 and asked my name twice more.

The cruisehip they appropriately named Driftwood lay resting in Marcel's backyard in front of an old green lazyboy recliner. They found a twenty two foot fiberglass hull at a dump and built a small cabin atop. The holes in the hull had been patched and remained unpainted. The cabin was constructed of home materials rather than boat materials making it look like a strange amalgamation of land and sea. Accessed with a screen door the interior smelled of filth and urine. It contained one bed and a couple of cast iron pots. Marcel excitedly showed us his double sinks which were actually just two five gallon buckets filled with water. Marcel told us he'd been living in Driftwood to get away from his Haitian wife, whom he hated and referred to as a witch.

Marcel was now so intoxicated he literally could not walk without holding on to the side of his boat. We sat down, Billy in the recliner and Marcel told us stories about God. I couldn't determine if he liked God or not but whatever it was he was passionate about and grumbled, now barely coherent. Although he was still able to recite the alphabet backwards for us with incredible speed and accuracy. This pleased him and he sat smiling at his boat. Driftwood was his oasis in his backyard, the vessel that would allow him to sail away, maybe, to some place without his Haitian wife, a place where he was much younger than 71, 73 or 83.  A small black girl no older than 12 brought him a coke and he introduced her as his daughter. He asked us to admire how beautiful she was which made her blush. I was uncertain if she was more embarrassed by her dad or by what he was saying.

I asked Marcel about his gyrocopter and he perked up, his eyes went from shut to slightly open and a smile came over him. Billy said, Marcel had built a small helicopter, it took him years, maybe ten to put together. It had a pontoon that allowed him to land on the water around Elbow Cay. One day he'd unknowingly landed it on a conch shell which punctured one of the pontoons and caused it to fill with water. Now off balance and weighted with hundreds of pounds of water Marcel took to air and shortly after crashed. The copter was destroyed but Marcel walked away entirely unscathed.

Billy suggested we go back to his girlfriend's house and have some wine. Marcel drunk, now settled into a state of grumpiness that allowed us to excuse ourselves without inviting him back to Billy's place. "He'll be better off here where he can pass out with his cruise ship." 

Billy's girlfriend, Joann had a beautiful house, the garage covered with jasmine and the house with red, white and orange bougainvillea. Billy told us how he'd built the house with his ex-wife and then sold it to the woman who became his girlfriend. Which made us laugh and wonder if it was Joann or the house that was so special to him. We sat on the porch and drank wine as Billy told us about how much he loved Joann, how wonderful she was and how much he'd love for us to meet her. The way he spoke about love was unusual, not because he was slurring, but because he spoke about it casually and comfortably. More like a poet than the owner of a construction company. Still it was difficult to imagine a New York, fashion show producer with a Bahamian Crocodile Dundee.

When a golf cart pulled into the driveway, he immediately recognized it as his mom's. She'd come to berate him for being drunk and to request a special plant from Billy's garden. A friend of hers was going back to the States and their friend had cancer. The cancer wasn't responding to treatment and his mom new one Billy's plants as a remedy to all ailments. It's leaves were to be made into a tea for the woman. Billy suggested a few ways they might hide it to get it through customs like putting it inside of an empty shampoo bottle.

Anna and I called Philip, Amber and Chris on the VHF to invite them over to Billy's house. They came over with vodka and ate the cookies Joann left for Billy. Billy offered to get us pot from his dealer Francis. Philip informed Billy that Francis was out, as Philip had already tried buying from Francis. Billy called Francis and kept getting disconnected. Frustrated, Billy decided it was a good idea to just go over to Francis's house and talk to him in person so the six of us climbed on Billy's golf cart. Francis met Billy in the driveway and insisted that he go home. Billy told him what he wanted and this infuriated Francis. Francis told Billy he was too drunk, too drunk to even buy pot. Slightly agitated Billy turned the golf cart around and drove us back to Hopetown to our boat where we said goodnight and thanked him for the vegetables.

A few days later when Anna and I found ourselves at a beach restaurant down the road from Billy's house we asked the bartenders if they knew our friends Billy and Marcel. We told them about drinking with Billy about the cruiseship and asked them if Marcel really crashed his gyrocopter. They confirmed the stories and told us "Billy Gates is the second biggest drunk in the Bahamas. The biggest is Marcel. When Joann leaves, Billy drinks and when Joann comes home Billy is sober. He's really not supposed to be drinking.....But did you see his garden?"

When we leave the shore in the evening to head back to our boat, the sunset showing off like a child that needs attention. Reds, pinks and purples colliding. The red helicopter is parked back on the jetty after a day of tours and the cruiseship is loaded back up with passengers about to head to Cozumel or Grand Cayman or wherever. Billy and Marcel are back in the Bahamas. Billy's working in the garden of the house he built with his ex-wife and sold to the woman he fell in love with. Joann is coming home soon and he's taking a bag of empty beer bottles out to the trash. Everything is in its place.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sonia: Part 1 of 3

Camped out at the Peace and Plenty Hotel Restaurant in Georgetown, Bahamas with our computers Philip, Anna and I uploaded photos, sent email and checked Facebook. It was late and I was determined to upload our photos. Philip and Anna were ready to go but were being patient with the technical problems I was experiencing.

A man in his mid to late thirties, salt and pepper stubble, California surfer blond hair in a bathing suit and a tank top sat down at the table next to ours. He wasn't fat because he was tall but was definitely out of shape. He carried a bottle of rum and and bottle of vodka and placed them on the table with his computer. Clearly a tourist and a guest of the hotel he asked us if we were as well. We said we were not, that we were on a sailboat and there to use the internet. He told us he was from San Diego which was already evident by his frequent use of the word "dude." I could see that he was looking at photos from his vacation, photos of himself.  I am vain. I am in love with myself but when I encounter these traits in other men I am irritated by their vanity and ego and determined to make them understand and accept how much better I am than them. He reminded me of someone who was in the Navy, I'd had a roommate who was once and they were eerily similar. The way they carried themselves, boastful, the way they immediately assumed I was interested in their lives. Someone who tried too hard to be cool. The things they tell you leaving you skeptical if it's actually the truth. When I asked what he did he said,
"Dude, bro it's complicated but I'll tell you I'm a Navy Diver. I search and locate undetonated explosives. Dude I get to travel all over and do some sick shit bro dude."
"Oh, but you're not a SEAL." Anyone in the Navy that is not a Navy SEAL is jealous of the SEAL's image. My comment was simply meant to knock his ego a little.
"Dude, I do shit SEALs can't do bro. I'm a specialist. Dude I have a lot of SEAL friends and they're even afraid of the shit I do dude bro."
"Well sure, but the explosives you're diffusing, there isn't any secret about them and you probably have a lot of information on the details of what is there before you get into it. So at least you don't have to worry about being shot at."
"Bro, I could blow up a huge area if I mess up in my job."
"A huge area of water."
"Yeah, dude, yeah bro."

After a few minutes of awkward silence he said, "Dude I went to this cave today up near Staniel Cay and well, this is crazy, I should never have done it, but I swam underneath and there was a pocket of air and I snapped this awesome photo dude." He picked up his computer and showed us a photo of his face, his mask on top of his head in what appeared to be a dark area.
"Was this at Thunderball grotto?" I asked
I looked at Anna, rolled my eyes and checked the upload hoping we'd soon be leaving.
"Yeah bro, it was nuts dude I just swam under, totally could have died bro."
"Oh yeah, we were there, lots of little kids snorkeling in and out of the cave."
"Oh you guys went there? Yeah we took this boat up there for the day, this guy took us out it was sick."

 A woman, in her fifties, but fit and heavily made up came and sat down next to Dude and whispered something. I couldn't hear his response but could tell it was rude. The woman seemed irritated and started using his laptop. Now unoccupied he began to comment on the woman's wealth, that she had a nice car and that the Peace and Plenty was a shit hole compared to the hotels they usually stayed in.. She interrupted him to say, "I'm not that rich."
After a short time she left and asked if he was coming. He said that he wasn't, that he was going to hang out with us, his new friends. Anna, Philip and I looked at each other, none of us liking be blamed for him not returning with this woman and even more upset to hear that he considered us his friends. Annoyed she left and one of us made the obvious assumption it was his girlfriend and he said it was just a woman he knew, someone he took trips with. The words hooker, escort and slut buddy suddenly came to mind. Dude, now clearly inebriated said, "Bro, you got to see this crazy pic I snapped today of me in this cave." He turned in his laptop towards us and showed us the same picture of his face in what appeared to be a cave. We looked at each other confused. Could we be experiencing group deja vu?

When we left I apologized for keeping us there so long and we collectively agreed Dude was a major douchebag.

A day later Philip ran into the Dude and the woman from the night before at a bon-fire at Hamburger Beach. He said they bought him a few drinks but that the guy was still a douche but said the woman, he was with, Lana, was much nicer than the night before. In fact she'd confided in Philip that she was upset with the way Dude was treating her.

Elizabeth Harbor on which Georgetown sits is a big in terms of the Bahamas. It's dotted by protective islands, the largest of which, Stocking Island is home to a hotel, restaurant and bars. Desdemona was anchored off of Stocking Island, about two km from Georgetown, in front of a beach bar called Chat N Chill. From the galley I heard splashing followed by "Dude? Dude? Bro? Dude? You there dude?" Anna already in the cockpit looked down in the water and said "hello" while I was wondering how he'd located our boat.
"Just thought I'd swim across and check out this bar."
"Wow, that's a long swim." said Anna
"Yeah, it's not dude. It's what I do I swim so maybe for some people but not for me bro."
"Well if you guys want to hang I'm going to be over there for a while so just hit me up." and off he swam.

For some stupid reason or another we ended up at Chat N Chill that afternoon. At the open air bar was Dude and Lana. We sat down and ordered hamburgers. Philip didn't want to spend money so he made a salad on a napkin out of what he could find on the condiment table. Philip appeared to be spending more time chatting with Lana than anyone else which wasn't unusual.

I'd seen this behavior out of Philip before. Once when he was chatting with an older couple I'd seen him talking to before I asked him why he was so interested in them. He explained to me that he thought that it was possible that if he got to know them a little, the old husband might ask him to service his wife which he was now, incapable of doing. And though it seemed a long shot it almost worked out for Philip. One Friday night at the Peace and Plenty, Philip was dancing with a few older women in an effort to get the attention of a group of young girls and inadvertently got the attention of an older British woman. Large, unattractive and also married Philip wasn't interested but nevertheless continued dancing. After a while her husband casually asked Philip in a strong British accent "Philip, how do you feel about threesomes and foursomes and such?"
Philip replied, "Uhhh, I mean I guess they are whatever. I mean I guess they're alright."
"The misses and I are going to have a spot of cocaine and we'll be back straight away."
"Okay whatever." Philip said wanting to get out of the situation.

And while the British never returned for Philip I wondered if this was what he was up to now with Lana and Dude. So when we made it back to the boat and Philip announced he'd worked out a deal with Lana I wasn't surprised. It was when I learned what the deal was that I was shocked. Philip said that Lana's twenty one year old daughter, Aimee was dating some loser who lived at home with his parents, did a lot of drugs and was the father of a small child. Lana, like a clueless mother, thought if she voiced her disapproval Aimee would simply stop dating this guy. Not surprisingly, since daughters are programmed to like a guy more if their parents disapprove that is what happened. So like a mother with no parenting skills but lots of money she decided to buy her daughter off. Which is when he announced the plan, Aimee is going to come sailing with us for a month and Lana is going to pay her $1000 and pay us however much we decide. Of course Anna and I had lots of questions.
What if she doesn't like it?
What if we don't like her?
Where is she going to sleep?
How much is she paying?
But perhaps more than any other we all wondered "Why would a woman who has no idea who we are send her daughter to come live with us on the ocean?" Our parents discouraged us and here she is paying us to take her daughter away. She'd never even seen our boat. Philip told her we'd have to check with our other crew member and if we all agreed we'd let her know a price. When we asked Chris what he thought his response was "Is she cool?" We said probably not based on her Facebook profile. Still we agreed this was too interesting, if she would pay us $2000 plus expenses for Aimee's share of food and gas we'd take her aboard.

The next day when Philip was going to Georgetown I asked him to pick up a few bottles of champagne for Anna's birthday which was in a couple weeks. I wasn't sure if I'd find champagne in Long Island and preferred to buy them in Georgetown and keep them a secret. When Philip returned he told me he ran into Lana and Dude at the liquor store and that they bought us a bottle of vodka and a couple bottles of champagne for Anna's birthday. I thought that this was strange but shrugged as Philip hid the bottles he'd brought back. After lunch Dude swam to our boat pulling Lana in an inner tube. They were at Chat N Chill and wanted us to join them. We asked if they wanted to come aboard thinking Lana would want to see the boat her daughter was going to live on. They declined but invited us to Chat N Chill. None of us wanted to but we needed to tell Lana our terms.

At the beach at Chat N Chill Lana agreed to pay, she'd transfer the money directly into our account when she got back to the States. At least that is what she said at the time and we had no reason to doubt it. Sitting with feet in the water she opened a bottle of champagne and said Happy Birthday to Anna. I bought these for you. Anna clinked her plastic glass, confused as to why this lady was celebrating since her birthday wasn't for another two weeks  and how this lady even knew she had one coming. "I saw Philip buying champagne for your birthday and I wanted to buy champagne for your birthday too." I sat in a chair behind the two of them with my mouth open at what she'd just done and used all of my effort not to drown her as she ruined the surprise.

While her and Philip made a few phone calls to convince Aimee I was stuck talking with Dude.
 "I can't believe you swam all the way across the harbor, that's a long swim." I said trying to be nice.
"Naaa dude, I'm an Ironman, I do tri-s and that is nothin."
I knew he was a huge liar, the shape he was in, there was no way, he couldn't do a Pillowman.
"Really, you do?" I said staring at his ridiculous belly and oval shaped thighs.
"Dude. Yeah, I'm into it big time, big time bro"
Fine, I thought, maybe he fancies himself a better liar than me.
"I'm an astronaut." I said without blinking
"Dude, no way."
"Yeah. Ever heard of the Hubble Telescope? I designed it." Clearly this was impossible as I was nine when it was launched into space.
"Whoa bro! It's high five time." to which we high fived.
And then we sat there our feet in the water exchanging stories, none of which were based on a true story.

At first Aimee thought we were some kind of sailing missionaries. Her mom had tricked her once before into going to Costa Rica to what turned out to be a bible camp. "Are you guys like studying sea turtles or something?" she asked Philip
"No. What? Sea Turtles? No. We just sail around, get drunk and meet people."
Aimee reluctantly agreed to come. She was going to meet us in Long Island, Bahamas, our next stop. First she had to get a passport. Lana assured us, "My daughter is a huge pain in the ass. If you guys get sick of her just drop her off on an island somewhere. And if you need her to bring anything for the boat let me know, I'll send it with her."

Even the idea of Aimee brought the four of us together as a group. We couldn't say no to $2000 just to drag some little rich brat around the islands for a month. And we agreed that if she sucked we'd just get rid of her. Our cruiser friend Gary aboard S/V Cool Change, our friends Dennis and Diane on S/V Rendezvous and Alvin owner of The Hamburger Beach Bar were all excited about the new crew member. They'd met Dude and Lana and couldn't believe the deal she'd made and couldn't wait to hear about the drama that would ensue. At the large round table at Alvin's we talked about tricks we could play on her like telling her we didn't have sails that we had to paddle our boat to Dominican Republic. Gary suggested the first thing we do is call her the wrong name, "How about Sonia?" We agreed, from then on Aimee Lishamer was Sonia.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Man With The Beard

The best way to find drugs is to grow a beard. As a result of a bet with Chris and Philip my face looks and feels like an overgrown vagina but I get to claim the title of champion. Our wager was not based on thickness or length, but who could tolerate having one the longest. Chris and Philip shaved but for now, I'm kind of attached to it or rather, it is attached to me. And so when those individuals who sell drugs see someone such as myself with a beard they immediately assume this guy needs to get high. Here in Aruba, a man that hangs out by the cruise ships puts his hand to his lips and asks me if I smoke He asks me three times a week as I run by him, each time as if he's never seen me before. I'm running, sweating and trying to stay conscious in the heat and this man thinks what I'd really like at the moment is some marijuana. At the end of my run as I cool down, walking along the dock towards our dinghy a fisherman says, "Yo, if you ever want to come smoke, just see me, I can get you whatever you need." I could use some water. The Dominican men would grab their face, nod, smile and say Chevo which means goat. Then they'd offer me prostitutes and cocaine. "You look like you do cocaine. Allow me to get you some." said a man in Samana as an introduction.

I get stared at by men and women. Children grab their parents hand tight as they look up at me as I pass. In the middle of the night they wake up screaming for mom. And when she runs in to see what is wrong the child looks at her terrified, "It's the man with the beard, he was in my nightmare." And the mom holds the child, pats it on the back, "Don't worry it's just a dream, he can't get you, it was just a dream." The only way I could be scarier is if I was Muslim or worse, black.
Enjoying coffee and a cigarette at a cafe with my puppy an incident occurred which caused whispers among the other patrons. The curious puppy and the fragile coffee cup met resulting in the dog being doused with semi-hot coffee. She wailed and screamed as if the end was near more scared than actually burned. At the same moment, reacting like she'd trained for moments like this, an overly protective waitress rushed up and doused her a second time with cold water. I laughed while the puppy now sat stunned at the sudden hot and then cold sensations. While the waitress fretted over the dog I looked around at the other tables all watching the scene, like an actor looking out into the audience. A few moments later I heard someone whisper "Did you see what the man with the beard did to that puppy? He dumped hot coffee on her head."Not just that man with the puppy. The man with the beard, as if the beard makes me inherently more evil.

But it's okay because when I hear them whisper "The man with the beard." it reminds me of when I first met Anna and had not a beard but a bird. I was babysitting my friend Josh's cockatoo, CJ, while he was away for a few months. Cockatoos are highly social birds when Josh learned this he started taking CJ to bars. In order to keep the bird comfortable I decided to do the same. The problem was that most bars aren't cockatoo friendly, something about the shitting and feathers in people's drinks. I was kicked out of a couple and tolerated at the rest. It was only at Chez Pierre, where Anna worked, that he was permitted to crawl up the bar, climb on Anna's arm as she shook a martini and dance up and down in rhythm with the shaker, raising the feathers on his head and let out a loud CAAAAAAA. Anna just laughed. A talented bird, CJ's other favorite activity was taking the cocktail straws from the bar, one at a time in his mouth and tossing them on to the floor.  One day speaking with her manager she said, "I think I like someone."
"The man with the bird." she said.

And since Anna and I have been watching the History Channel series "The Most Evil Men in History" the whisper about me dumping coffee on the puppies head also makes me feel like maybe I'm on or should be on that list. Maybe we just haven't gotten to that episode. And I think about the men who are on the list and their facial hair, men like Atilla the Hun and Ivan the Terrible and I wonder if they got offered drugs when they went for a jog. If Ivan really was that terrible or did he just seem to be, like a man with a beard who appears to have dumped coffee on a puppies head.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

120 Nights in Jail: Night 3

The following post as well as any others under the 120 Days title are from my experiences between November, 2008 and February 2009 at the Wakulla County Jail.

At 5:00 the lights came on, startled I sat up quickly. I looked around and remembered where I was. The inmate in charge of serving breakfast banged on the glass three times and yelled something unintelligible. Later I realized he said, "chow time." I noticed the blanket that was covering my lower half, it appeared to be a reddish brown. It was tattered near the ends with a few holes throughout. I held a piece of it close to my eye to determine what color it was. When closely examined I could see it was actually a combination of green, blue, brown, red, orange, yellow, black and grey like those tightly woven carpets they install in schools and public buildings. I threw the blanket off and went to stand in line to get breakfast.

As happened the day before an inmate in an all white jumpsuit slid a tray and a small Styrofoam cup of water through a slot in the door to each inmate. The trusties handed us our food while a guard stoodby with a clipboard making note of who received their meal. Again, I was asked my number which I still I didn’t know what number the guard was referring to. This time the skinny black kid who was handing out the trays decided he didn't have time for my ignorance and told the guard “twenty five, twenty five.” The guard looked at his clipboard and said, “no.”A second time I tried to explain I don’t know my number but the guard would look down as if he didn't hear me and then moved on to the next person never acknowledging or letting me know the actual number I was supposed to say. The black kid handed me my food and water. This guessing game repeated itself at every meal for the rest of my time in Wakulla. After about a week I stopped trying to explain and just guessed different numbers for every meal. 

Breakfast was two pieces of white bread pretending to be French toast along with a ketchup packet of syrup along with grey oatmeal all served cold to go with the climate of the jail. After carb-loading most inmates went back to bed as did I. 

At 5:30 I again watched work release leave for the day, knowing I was supposed to be with them but unable to do anything about it I just watched jealously as they left. 

Around 10:00 the intercom said, "BRANARD! BRANARD! Get dressed." I was so excited I leapt off the bed slipped on the orange flip flops I was assigned and ran to the door. After a couple minutes a man who became synonymous with freedom, Lt. Hoppi Strickland opened the door to the pod. He looked down at his a manila file folder and up at me and said, "Brainard?" I nodded.  "Come with me Brainard." 

Lt. Hoppi Strickland, every bit the good ol’boy you’d expect with a name like Hoppi Strickland, was an old man, probably in his early sixties, bald with stiff movement and poor posture. As I followed him through the corridors of the jail I noticed the bunched skin on the back of neck where it met the collar on his green sheriff uniform. It looked doughy and I could smell his Old Spice. When my dad used to wear Old Spice I never cared for it but it became a smell I loved. If you were smelling Old Spice you were about to be free, at least for the day.

Following him through the jail would soon become the best part of everyday. Me and the ten or so other work release guys would walk as he led us to freedom. I pretended we were POWs and we were his guys and he was our captain, he'd swiped one of the enemy uniforms and was now leading us out of the enemy prison. Hoppi, as everyone called him, looked like the older cousin of R. Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. He was strict but nice at the same time. With a crotchety grumpy tone he'd zing an inmate and then laugh at his own joke.  He was the only person in the facility that seemed to care about the inmates, just not too much where it'd be obvious to other guards.
 For me and the others on work release he was the most powerful person in the jail even though he wasn’t the administrator. He was our freedom and everybody liked him. 

Hoppi led me to the lobby of the jail and held the door for me to walk out into the only parking lot i ever considered beautiful. When I stepped through the door, the sun on my skin felt as if I'd just left a toxic cocoon. The warmth of the day reminded me what it was like not to be cold. It felt as if it was the first time in about 40 hours, my body was awake.

Hoppi took me to his office which was actually just a shed outside the jail across the parking lot. Opening the door to his make shift office you’d expect to see lawn mowers but instead it’s filled with filing cabinets, a large wooden desk, so large it's surprising when you open the door. It looks as if the shed was built around the desk because it would never fit through the door. The desk was exactly the large wooden type you'd expect for a sheriff and surrounded by framed photos of his Brahma Bull, Pete, who he referred to with tender affection as, “a good ol’boy.” On his desk were business cards for “Strickland’s Goats and Hog” with the sub-head “live or skinned, whole or parts.” I imagined him skinning a hog. It was a good fit for him.

He apologized for not being able to get me out yesterday and confirmed that my truck was around the corner at the health department and told me I needed to return by 6:30. He took me to the shed next door to change. My clothes and keys were in a blue bin waiting for me. As quickly as humanly possible I removed my clothes, pulled my Noles shirt over my head, put my legs in my jeans and ran out of the shed before someone changed their mind. I imagined a sniper taking aim and realized running from a jail was not a good idea. When I started my truck it idled a little higher for a minute, as if to say, "Glad to see you Jeff." I lit the best cigarette in the world and took off towards Tallahassee. At a stoplight I exchanged glances with a middle aged lady in the car next to me. She smiled and it occurred to me she had no idea I was currently an inmate. On the way to Tallahassee the whole world seemed amazing. I stopped at the first gas station I came to for a coffee. As I handed the clerk my debit card I could see her staring at my arm. On my wrist was the yellow band that read Wakulla County Jail. I smiled weakly at her and she smiled back in discomfort. I wondered if she'd report an escapee purchasing coffee.

Back on the road I said hello to the birds, telephone poles and pine trees. I could stop at Circle K if I wanted. Or McDonalds or Publix or take a tour of the Old Capital. Until 6:30 I could do whatever I wanted. Instead of any of those things I went to my office to see my wife and friends. I called my mother and she instructed me that this was to be our routine. I was to call her every morning as soon as I got in my truck so she knew I was okay. She also informed me that Barack Obama had won the election.

Allison met me at my office with our dog Benson and we hugged the kind of hug a soldier receives when they return from war. Her eyes were puffy, she looked tired and sad. Benson hyper at seeing me licked my face as if he understood the situation. She brought me sandwiches and cottage cheese and I told her about the carb-loaded breakfast, Lt. Kelly, the pod and my tattered blanket. I tried to explain things as if they were funny which only had the effect of making her cry. I told her about the zebra stripes thinking that the image would make her laugh but it only made things worse. At the time I didn't appreciate the stress she'd endured in the past forty hours. And while I was scared and uncomfortable in jail at least I knew what I was facing. She did not and her imagination was likely worse than my reality. Ironically, the more sad she became the more positive I became. She stayed for a while. At my desk I read the news to catch up on the election. Eventually she left to go buy me socks, boxers and plain white t-shirts.

Four or five times that day I repeated my stories from the past two days to my bosses, friends and family. Repeating them gave me a small amount of confidence in my situation, perhaps understanding it better, not being there and laughing at the ironies and silliness of the whole situation. My afternoon was spent teaching forty students at Florida State University how to be more creative. Part of my job involved teaching an advertising class called Creative Strategy. This semester class was Wednesday from 3:30-6:00. I'd have to excuse myself at 5:30 to leave to head back to Wakulla. The duality of my life left me slightly amused.

At 5:30 I left to return to Hotel Wakulla. On the way I listened to Johnny Cash and sang
"I Got Stripes.......Stripes Around My Shoulders
  I Got Chains.......Chains Around My Feet"

I parked at the health department, called Allison to tell her goodnight and that I'd gotten to the jail in time. I wandered back to the shed where I'd changed that morning. A few other guys on work release were there waiting. We sat and smoked cigarettes on a picnic table while they talked. At exactly 6:30 a guard came out of the jail and let us into the shed. His name was Lt. Strickland, he was old, probably in his seventies. He was tall, grouchy, wore dentures and had an extra amount of skin beneath his chin that flapped when he spoke. The ten other men and I placed our real world clothes in a blue bin with our name and photo on it and changed back into criminals. The new socks felt especially soft on my feet. Once everyone changed and the Lt. Strickland led us around and into the jail through the back. He ordered everyone to wait up against a wall while he went into a control room.

Standing across from the one way glass I could see my reflection. I suddenly felt that this was all wrong. I thought about being a kid, being a little playful, a little smartass but never bad. About highschool and being disruptive but never a serious troublemaker. I always made honor roll, did they know this? Honor roll kids aren't supposed to be in jail. I was a drama nerd not some punk that smoked in the parking lot. Drama nerds don't go to jail. I squinted at my reflection and thought about college about the scholarships I'd received about graduating with honors. Sure I partied but everything I did illegal was silly, nothing seriously criminal. And here I was, my reflection telling me I was wrong. I thought about buying real estate and stocks about working as a consultant and teacher. Consultants aren't supposed to go to jail. I stood there looking at my reflection slightly shaking my head wondering how I'd gotten here, not realizing everything I knew about myself was beginning to change.

Lt. Strickland returned wearing rubber gloves with a a large black guard named Porter also wearing gloves.  Porter looked like Fat Albert except he serious, almost comically mad. I wondered if he was a bad dancer and because of his size I assumed he was probably bad at sports. Even though it is unfair it made me feel better to pretend that his anger was a result at failing at two things society expects black men to succeed at. I imagined him crying in his pillow after being laughed off a basketball court. This allowed me to believe he was just misunderstood and not purely evil. Porter had huge bulging green eyes that delighted in what was to follow. They ordered us from the wall to a small eight by eight holding cell and instructed us not to use the toilet. Waiting in the holding cell I can see a certain stiffness in a few inmates. Lt. Strickland asks for the first two and Porter says I'll take the next two. Four inmates leaves the cell. The remaining inmates joke about how Lt. Porter is tough and loves to get a piece of ass every night, our ass. A tough looking inmate who reminds me of my uncle Steve except with a white patch of hair on his otherwise brown head says, “if you don’t like it don’t go to jail.”

Meanwhile I had no idea what they were talking about or what was about to happen. Then Porter returned and said, "next two." Eager to end my anticipation I followed him into a small janitorial closet. In the closet I was surprised to find another equally large but much less menacing black guard wearing gloves.  He nodded at me. Which I thought strange because guards don't normally show any signs of acknowledging that you are alive. I nodded back and stood there. He nodded at me again. I was beginning to wonder if this was some sort of code until the other inmate started undressing and I realized what his nods meant. The nod meant "take your clothes off." As I began undressing the guard extended his hand and asked for my clothes. He turned them inside out and felt the seems for anything that could have been hidden. I was instructed to remove my socks and my underwear. I remove my underwear, now standing completely naked when the large guard with the kind eyes says,
"Open the pouch."
"Excuse me?"
"The pouch, I need to see in the pouch?"
"The pouch?" I say, very naked equally confused.
"On your underwear man, where your dick goes, your pouch."said the other inmate frustrated with my naivete.
"Oh. right. okay, the pouch, oh." I said trembling naked trying to separate fabric from fabric.

Then he says, “cough.” I thought this meant he was going to check my testicles like a physical, which I thought a nice and a surprising service for a jail to offer. Standing upright I covered my mouth and went “acch.” Porter and the other guard laughed along with the other inmate who said, “no, he doesn’t want to check your nuts, turn around, bend over, spread your cheeks and cough.” Considering this for a second I stood there blinking, like when you call a dog and he just looks at you, I looked at the guards for assurance this is what they wanted. I followed the instructions, bent over, my head near the ground with my hands reaching back to spread my cheeks I went "acch" and shouted, "is this good? Is this what you wanted?" The guard said, "yeah that's it, you can stop now" approving that my asshole was in acceptable condition. He handed me my clothes back.  I quickly redressed and asked his name. “Sgt. Thomas,” he said. I told him I’d never done that without knowing a person’s name but complimented him on doing a good job.

After the exam the door was opened and we were told to stand against the wall while the remaining inmates from work release could be checked. We were led back to the pod where I saw a fat old man showering. Men were playing cards as they greeted some of the guys from our group. I went back to my bed and pretended to sleep. It was 7:00. The room was loud with laughter and playful yelling.  I wondered how anyone could laugh in jail. I thought about getting out the next morning at 5:30. I calculated that I only had 10.5 hours. I was still awake when the lights went off at 12:00.