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."

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