Archive for the ‘1000 Words’ Category

Colonial Carribean

Monday, May 13th, 2013
Colonial Carribean

Main Street, Bequia

Bequia (pronounced Beck-way) is part of the Grenadines, a chain of over one hundred islands and reefs extending more than sixty miles between St. Vincent and Grenada. This is the least-developed edge of the Caribbean where small inns have not been replaced by high-rise resorts and golf courses; whirling fans outnumber air conditioners. The population supports itself from farming and fishing, not tourism, and the few airports accommodate only small aircraft. The entire area is a sailor’s haven as many of the islands are accessible only from the sea.

Mesopotamia Valley

Mesopotamia Valley

Kristen and I flew into Kingstown, St. Vincent, from Barbados. Rum punch sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg in hand, we sat in an open window of the old-style Heron hotel where we were staying–our seat offering the perfect view of trucks laden with bananas waiting patiently in queue to unload their goods onto the massive cargo ships anchored in the harbor. The next day we rented a jeep and drove along winding roads, up steep hills and over rushing rivers into the lush interior rain forest aptly named Mesopotamia Valley. The nearby volcano had created acres of rich fertile soil that were jam-packed with pineapples, limes, and exotic tropical flowers shrouded in a perpetual mysterious mist. We couldn’t believe we were in the Caribbean; it certainly wasn’t like any place our parents had taken us to on family vacations. When the swollen gray clouds suddenly burst, we watched harvesters casually improvise banana leaves into umbrellas before resuming work.

Markey Bounty

Market bounty

The Saturday food market in Kingstown is one of the largest in the Caribbean and the vendors who couldn’t fit inside the covered building spilled into the surrounding streets, the women shielding themselves from the sun with parasols. Local farmers happily explained the uses of dasheen, christophene, callaloo, soursop, sugar apples, a variety of unearthly, hairy, mangled tubers, huge pumpkins slashed open to reveal their deep cadmium orange interiors and piles of breadfruit. In 1793 Captain Bligh introduced the breadfruit tree on St. Vincent. It is rumored that when Bligh came from Tahiti on the Bounty, he gave more water to the plants than to his crew, thus instigating the mutiny

The ferry departs for the outer islands twice a day–an inexpensive and entertaining means of transport. When we arrived in Bequia, a crowd was waiting on the dock to greet friends, get mail, or collect the cases of soda, engine parts, furniture, and ten-kilo sacks of brown sugar they’d ordered. No addresses were on the items, only a name and an island. Enid Johnson, Canouan; Oliver Baptiste, Union. We stayed in the original wood and stone building of the Frangipani built in the early 1800’s, once the family home of the current Prime Minister. Our room, complete with mosquito net draped beds, overlooked the terrace bar facing the waterfront. This was one of the great meeting places in the Grenadines and we’d hear the sound of dice clicking on board games and ice clinking in glasses as we dressed for dinner. Yachters mingled with Rastafarians, expatriates with travelers, the young with the old. Everyone spoke with everyone. Kristen and I had never been anywhere like it.

“Main Street” was a path only wide enough for one person that meandered over sand, rock and through the water at high tide. We learned after the first night to only wear skirts or pants that could easily be hiked up and to never wear shoes. We passed small restaurants and shops that had wonderful names like Whaleboner, Gingerbread and Old Fig Tree. One couldn’t be in Bequia more than two hours and not hear about Mac’s lobster pizza.


Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Bonnie surrounded by a Swedish film crew in Peru

A friend Susan and I were checking out of our hotel in Ayacucho, Peru, when seven men—each well over six feet—entered the lobby. From their height and fair hair we guessed they were Scandinavian. We learned they were a film crew from Sweden making a documentary about a Swedish priest living among indigenous Indians in the tropical forest along the Ucayali River bordering Brazil. When we introduced ourselves and I said my name was Bonnie, they all started singing ♫ My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea ♫ in unison. It’s always amazed me how much other countries know about us and how little most of us know about them.

The guys insisted we stay for a drink, which became several drinks and hours of conversation—that’s when the picture must have been taken. One of the team did part-time work as a stuntman and the other men teased him without mercy. Apparently he could set himself on fire and jump out of a building, but was terrified of spiders and anxious about going into the jungle. When it became too late to get any connections out of Ayacucho, Susan and I checked back into the hotel and changed our clothes for dinner. Afterward we went to listen to music in the hotel club. If you read my book, Without a Spare, you’ll know about my low tolerance for alcohol and what happens to me after two drinks, so it won’t come as a shock that I ended up slow dancing with one of the guys named Klaus. He’s the man with a mustache partially visible on the bottom right of the photo. We went to his room but he’d had so much to drink, body parts weren’t cooperating, which at the time we found funny.

I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d spent the night in Klaus’s room, but when I opened the door to sneak out in the morning, I discovered the crew had been silently waiting outside and they started clapping and hooting and slapping Klaus on the back. I wanted a big hole in the floor to open and swallow me up. Klaus would have been one of the two one-night stands in my life, but when I got home he started telephoning and my night of “wildness”turned into an on again, off again twelve-year relationship. Klaus was a journalist and superb sailor who’d soloed across the Atlantic. He had long great legs and was a pretty heavy drinker.

A year after Ayacucho, Klaus stayed at my apartment in Manhattan for a few days before continuing on to California to cover an important yachting race. The first morning he went out jogging in Central Park and came back with two coffees and a smile on his face. Hearing his accent, someone had asked where he was from, and when he said “Sweden,”they said, “Oh, you speak German.””No,”Klaus replied, “I speak Swedish.” “No,”the guy insisted, “if you come from Sweden, you speak German,”and you knew it was going to be one of those stories he’d repeat often when he got back home.

The second time he came to New York was on assignment to do an undercover story on the Unification Church/cult founded by Sun Myung Moon. He dragged me along so we could pretend to be an interested couple, but the “Moonies”separated us immediately and within five minutes I found myself in a circle of people holding my hands telling me they loved me.

The next visit was timed for the American 1976 Bicentennial celebration, and Klaus and I sat in an open window of my father’s office on the 16th floor of a Wall Street building drinking champagne with friends and watching the tall masted-ship flotilla sail up the Hudson River. We were invited to a party to see the 4th of July fireworks from the terrace of a relative married to a Vogue model. It was a beautiful people crowd and the women were all stick-thin. Their chests were wrapped in wide Ace bandages to ensure no bumps disturbed sleek silhouettes. How could anyone not like a man who said, “God, there are gorgeous women here, but way too skinny for me.”