Wednesday, November 03, 2010

There is a God, and He is Good part 3

Our walk back to the ship was uneventful. The rest of that day was quite uneventful. I think we hung out by the pool. The poker room had to be closed while we were at port, in Nassau. I guess they didn't want anyone missing out on a chance to spend money in their fine town by spending time gambling. It makes sense, I suppose. Maybe the cruise ships shouldn't stop here at all. I don't much care for Nassau.

The pool deck on The Monarch was another story completely. Although, there are a couple of things I did notice. Americans are a large people, and the modern swimsuit does not cover enough skin.

It was a beautiful day, and we sat by the pool for a couple of hours before we went to dinner. At dinner I had a steak. After a day of walking through the masses, almost getting involved in a shootout, and seeing a half naked woman, I needed protein. We made a mistake that night, however. Our waiter straightened us out though.

He immediately brought us our menus, and wanted to immediately take our order. Of course, in an attempt to avoid all decisions until absolutely necessary, I needed to review the menu. Our waiter left and didn't come near us for about twenty minutes. Ok, message received.

He was busy and was squeezing us in. I don't even think we were seated where we were supposed to be. They assign seats, and approximate dinner times. It is probably necessary. Since we were on the low end of the pay spectrum we at at 5:45, or were supposed to as close to that time as we could. We paid attention to it, for the most part.

The poker that night was not good, at least not for me. I barely won a hand and lost all that I had won the night before plus a fair amount. I never completed a draw, never flopped a monster, never had a good hand hold up. My buddy, Hinderance, was in full bloom and sticking the hot pokers in my jaw again. I am an idiot. Why did I not take better care of my teeth?

I quit the game a loser that night. I went to sleep thinking about the bills that were due once we got back to Jacksonville. It was a fitful night. I love having M watch me play cards. It makes me play better, I believe. I hate it when she is there for the bad nights. She doesn't seem to show that it bothers her, but it must. I often find doubt in all of this.

Of course, there is always another hand.

Codsey out.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

There is a God, and He is Good part 2

I awoke to a dull pain in the side of my face caused by none other than my arch enemy, Hinderance. Hinderance had been digging at me for a couple of days now, and he was seriously cramping my style. Today was to be a day of adventure and discovery, but Hinderance was trying to be difficult. M and I were to leave the safety of our cruise ship and tour downtown Nassau, Bahamas. We were looking forward to getting to know life in a tropical city.

Breakfast, specifically the scrambled eggs, was sublime. Did I mention how good the food was on this cruise? Let me reiterate. It was top-notch. I'm fairly certain the chef added either crack cocaine or possibly some secret ingredient they purchased from MacDonald's to make you crave nearly anything they served.

We ate and departed The Monarch. As our ship had pulled into the port of Nassau we could see the local shops and restaurants along the shore. That would be our destination. Plus, M and I needed to find the children something as a gift.

Before I left the boat I popped a couple more tylenol, and put some in my pocket for later. I would not let Hinderance get the best of me. This was a vacation, and damnit, I was going to have fun.

As you depart the ship you are guided past numerous locals trying to sell you a variety of objects and services. There were taxi drivers, bottled water salesman, trinket peddlers, and of course the braiders. Apparently one of the more popular things to do in the bahamas is get your hair braided by a local island woman. I'm not sure of the fascination, but who am I to judge.

They guide you through a building, with signs promising an exit out into the streets of Nassau. Of course, one is first hounded by shop owners as your path snakes throughout this building.

They almost had me talked into renting a scooter and just riding. I could picture M and I flying down the narrow city streets, trying to remember to stay on the left side of the road, while cars zig-zagged in and out of traffic. M persuaded me that it may not be the safest of activities. Hinderance was pounding on my face. I was disappointed, but as we got onto the street I immediately could see the hazards involved with negotiating a scooter in this town.

There were few traffic lights. I can't remember seeing a traffic cop. Drivers, bicyclist, and pedestrians were left to fend for themselves, each battling for rule of the roads. We stayed on the sidewalk.

Bay street is nice. It's mostly jewelry stores, banks, and discount clothing stores. There are some restaurants, but all food and drink is overpriced as they cater to the tourists. I suppose it is their only export, tourism, but the prices they charged were as expensive, and sometimes more so, than what our Monarch charged us. Plus, our Monarch provided the highest quality food prepared by the finest chefs. Hinderance was annoyed by all of this and made sure the left side of my face could feel it.

M and I next stumbled on what is referred to as The Famous Straw Market. It is basically a giant tent, very close to the cruise ship's docks, that has hundreds of individual shop owners peddling their goods. It is the Bahamian answer to a flea market, but with extra fleas. The shops are packed one on top of the other, separated by about a three foot aisle for customers to walk through.

It was all very claustrophobic, and Hinderance did not like the situation at all. He banged away at my face as M and I struggled to make our way through the labyrinth of beads, braiders, and Bahamian bottle pickers. We got to the back of the building, looking for the exit out of this mass of sweat and tears, when we realized there was no back. Well, there was a back, but no back exit. Do these people have fire codes?

Hinderance was pissed. Hinderance was sticking sharp, fire hot steel rods into my jawbone. I looked at M and said "Let's get the flock out of here".

We were almost out of the straw market/overcrowded flea market/uncomfortably closed quartered human sweat box when I spotted a woman selling bowls. Well, I had to have a handcrafted Bahamian peace pipe. So, I got one. It cost ten dollars and I didn't even try to talk the woman down. She probably deserved twenty dollars noting she had to sit in this tent all day, every day, trying to make a buck.

We managed to make it to the street. Ahhh, the fresh smell of the ocean, fish, and there was one other smell that I could not immediately pinpoint. It took me a while to figure it out, and at first I thought the sweet pungency was somehow related to the people, but that is not right. It's the auto emissions.

While there is no cloud, there is a definite smell present. See, the leading industry appears to be taxi driver. Here's how you break into the market. Go buy a car costing the equivalent of 2k here in the US. Then, be sure it has four nearly round wheels. Finally, slap a sign on it that says "Taxi", and you are now an entrepreneur.

I get it though, they cannot do it any other way. They don't produce much. They have their beaches, people, and warm weather. Is America going in that direction? Michigan doesn't have warm weather.

Hinderance needs to stop. Hinderance wants this tooth pulled from my head. I gobble the last two tylenol. M wants to look at a beach we saw from the ship. I think it's like three or four blocks. We pass more liquor stores, jewelry shops, about three banks, and then slowly walk out of downtown, and into the hotel district.

Hotels in Nassau have large fences, with barbed wire on top, surrounding the parking lots. See, to me that is not very comforting.

As we continue down the sidewalk, towards the beach, we pass middle aged woman sweeping the sidewalk with one of those things they use at movie theaters to clean between pictures. She has an orange and yellow vest on, I believe so the cars speeding past her will see her and hopefully slow down. There is also a younger man, on a bicycle, also wearing the same vest, but he's just talking to the woman, sitting on his bike.

M and I don't think much of it accept for how clean the sidewalk is on that one block. She was doing an excellent job. The other blocks? Well, let's just say they were not as tip-top as this one. I'm not sure who was cleaning those sidewalks, or better yet when, but the guy on the bike peeked my interest.

We walked on. We got to the beach. It had minimal garbage and only a few dead fish. We walked down the the water. We decided to head along the water, back towards the ship, and see what they wanted for a lawn chair rental. The place that was renting beach chairs was a yellow shack that also had a DJ, I guess. There was Bob Marley playing, and quite loudly.

We walked long the warm water as it gently lapped against our bare feet. The tylenol was working, and Hinderance was sleeping quietly. The steel rods had been set aside as I smiled at the thought of modern medicine. Up ahead we approached a man and a woman lying on their stomachs, their feet only a couple of yards from the waters edge.

As we neared it became obvious it was two women. The reason I had erred from afar was because the one on the left didn't have a top on. They were both under the age of thirty, and shaped rather nicely, at least their backs, butts, and legs. For, at the moment, that was all we could see.

M was talking about something, as my sunglassed eyes (yes!) wandered to the right to make sure this woman didn't do anything crazy like roll over or something. Well, she didn't roll over, but she did get up on her elbows to talk to her friend. She was shaped quite well up there, too.

I looked away. I only just caught a glimpse. I knew prolonged exposure, in that setting, was going to mean blindness either by the rays of the sun or M's own fingernails. As we passed I decided I had to steal one more peak. I could not help it. I am human and have faults. M did not scratch my eyes out so I am sure she accepts this fault as minor in the grand scheme of things.

My next phrase was not well thought out.

"So, you want to rent some chairs and go sit over there?" My hand pointed back, sort of towards the spot where the two women were sunbathing.

When I saw her look I realized I may have erred, slightly. She gave me a quick "not here, this beach is gross."

I mumbled something about dead fish and garbage and we quietly walked back to the street.

Back on the street we decided to look for a drink and maybe lunch. We had to walk past the woman and the young man on the bike. It had been about twenty minutes since we had last seen them. She was sweeping, he was sitting on his bike talking, and nothing had changed. Just odd, I think. I'm not sure if he was supervising her and everything is so corrupt he doesn't have to actually do anything, or what, but it was just odd.

Even more odd was both of their refusals to clear the sidewalk so we could pass. We had to almost walk into the street to get around them. It had an odd feeling to it, that whole situation. I wanted to go back to the beach, but wisely kept my mouth shut.

Hinderance twinged a bit. Easy there, big boy. There is no more tylenol in my pocket. I'll get you some alcohol if you just don't bring out the metal rods for a little bit longer. Deal? Good.

M and I found a small, open air bar that had appetizers an sandwiches for lunch. We sat down at a table and asked for a menu. We never saw her again. What can I say? We looked at the menu for about 3 minutes, decided on beer and conch something or another, and we never saw the waitress again. She may have been kidnapped, or maybe had medical issues, but she did not return, nor did any replacement.

After about ten minutes of talking, and with Hinderance beginning to poke and prod again, I said "let's go, We'll eat and drink by the pool, on the Monarch."

M thought that was a great idea. Her demeanor would lead me to believe she had seen enough of Nassau, and was ready to be pampered again. I can't say that I blame her. Five star dining, superb service, anything you desire at the swipe of a sea-pass... why would you want to leave that?

We were walking on Bay street again, the stores and banks on our left side. The streets were packed with cars going past. I was thinking we should have crossed the street because there might be something we want to see over there when a man running from around the bank caught my eye.

He was about forty yards away, in full military garb. His camouflaged uniform was the black and grey color I've always associated with military police. He had on a black beret, He was not black, but rather looked almost Cuban. He was at least 6'3". He was also carrying an M-16 and was moving up the sidewalk, stooping slightly as he passed the large front windows of the bank.

M and I froze. People walked past us oblivious to what was happening. At the end of the block, from where the soldier had just come from, two women ran across the street. When I say ran, I mean they were sprinting.

Uh-oh. I looked to my right. We could duck between two parked cars. I looked left. We could run into that jewelry store. We took a step back.

Two men, hands on their holstered pistols, walked briskly from where the girls ran, and walked up to the doorway where the soldier was crouching. The senior man, a tall older white man, walked into the front door of the bank. The soldier stood by. The third man spoke quietly into the handset on his shoulder.

Nothing happened. People began to walk past again. We just went also. We looked into the bank as we walked by and saw people talking. We rounded the corner and there were two bank employees, black older women, standing at a side door looking out into the street. There was an official looking car, with a man sitting ion the passenger seat talking into a cb radio. I didn't see any police cars.

We quickly walked away with our mouths hanging open.

Just another day in downtown Nassau. I'm assuming those men were probably part of a privately hired security team. Maybe they were the police. I don't know. There were no sirens, there was no commotion. There was no attempt to keep pedestrians clear of the situation.

What a strange land.

I'll continue this later. I'm tired and need to go vote.

Codsey out.