Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thrifting at Home-Tropical Hurricane Edition

"Hey Paolo, what do you say we take a nice holiday after the grape harvest? I've been to the travel agent, and there's a nice, newly, post-colonial set of islands in the Caribbean we can visit."

"Sounds good to me Lucia. I'm sick of stomping grapes. Let someone else make the Chianti for a change."

The Italian figurines do have something to do with the story, but we'll get to that later when we find them at the hotel gift shop.

Rewind to the early 70's. My mother decides she wants a holiday, but my dad does not. My sister is otherwise occupied, so guess who gets to visit the Bahamas immediately following their independence? If you guessed, "Hey, maybe it was Goody!" you win some useless Bahamian money, or what we found out was useless Bahamian money shortly after arrival because someone in the newly formed government forgot to establish which currency they'd be using. Not to worry though, we had American dollars, and everyone fucking wanted those .

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, we had to get there.

I've traveled a fair amount, but that was the only flight where I've ever had to deal with oxygen masks dropping down, and the instructions at the start of the flight coming in useful. We hit some rough air. They said it was turbulence, but we later found out it was the outer edge of a storm we'd be meeting head on in a day or so. This was before 24 hour news stations, and up-to-the-minute weather. The first we heard of a hurricane was as we stood at a suspiciously empty customs counter. A very tall man in a very white uniform that looked like something out of a 1930's movie, waved us through with a glance at my mother's US driver's license. No one bothered with passports.

You know how travel brochures make the beaches look pristine, the blue water, the shining sun? Yeah. We took what was the scariest taxi ride of my life to the hotel where a handful of former colonial civil servants were passing time in the lobby, excited to see a couple Americans that hadn't taken a day boat over from Florida. And who wouldn't be bored with Floridians? "Ah, Chicago, Al Capone, Bang! Bang!" No point disabusing them of the notion we were the wife and daughter of a gangster, it likely made us safer.

There was a nicer hotel on a different island with a casino, but the weather had already turned, so we stayed put in the lobby of our hotel as the winds increased and the staff boarded up around us. That was interesting, but the drinks were free and plentiful, and they had a steel band playing music ( mostly the "Shaving Cream" song, over and over), so really, how bad could it get? We couldn't go up to our rooms, but hey, free drinks!

I found the game room, and a couple teenagers whose parents worked at the hotel. We played hours of pinball, and one of those early driving games. People started arriving at the hotel-locals as far as I could tell, looking to ride it out in a better built structure than most of what we'd seen on the ride from the airport.

My mother always insisted it was a cyclone when retelling the story, but I'm telling you the truth, it was a hurricane. A very small, barely notice it, hurricane. There were downed trees and some lost roofs, and the beach had less sand than when we arrived, but it was a very small hurricane. It passed as quickly as it arrived. By morning, it was over. Until morning, we had to pass the time, so before the lights went out and the staff had to gather up those terrible glass table candles with the strange netting around the outside (remember those?) we wandered over to the hotel gift shop.

Having excellent taste in collectibles, I spotted a gigantic Lalique cat that had to weigh twenty pounds. It was expensive, and sensibly my mother refused to purchase it. Instead, she bought me a blown glass, green reindeer. A very large one, that I think ended up with my sister years later. Meanwhile, my mother had spied a pair of figurines, fishermen if I remember. As she agonised over the price, and whether to purchase them, another bored tourist also seeking refuge from the steel band and the millionth verse of Shaving Cream, bought them from under her. Determined it shouldn't happen again, she bought the grape pickers seen in the photo above. I'm pretty sure we had to pay with, "American Bucks" because the only currency everyone agreed on at that point was a square, Bahamian nickel, and you couldn't buy too much with that. We also loaded up on a local perfume called, "Paradise" which even in the absence of a hurricane would have been optimistic (they can call it, "Paradise Island" but trust me, it ain't).

After the storm subsided, my dad shows up having heard there was some sort of hurricane, presumably to rescue us. Seeing no one in need of rescue, he stayed a couple days before flying home- but not before making it over to the nicer hotel on the other island with the casino. He slapped a coin (maybe a square nickel?) into a slot machine, promptly hit the jackpot, and my mother ran for something to catch the coins. As I recall, he bought us dinner at the fancy hotel, and I found out that Pina Colodas and Black Forest cake do not mix. In the 70's it was still perfectly acceptable to serve cocktails to children on holiday. You're probably marveling that I'm not an alcoholic, but really, you should be impressed I'm not diabetic.

 "I told you we should have stayed home stomping grapes!"
"Aw shad-up 'ya chinless wonder. Hey, you! Yeah, you with the camera. Dust off my boobs, will 'ya? I've been sitting at the back of a china cabinet for forty years."

I'd happily get rid of them, but they survived a hurricane, and post-colonial independence, and I feel somewhat obligated to keep them. If I ever return to the Bahamas (unlikely) I'll bring them with, and repatriate them.


pastcaring said...

What a story! It deserves its own scene in the movie of your life (after you've written the memoir and been paid a gazillion dollars for the film rights, of course? Hmm, who would play you?) I am impressed that anyone went on such exotic-sounding holidays in the early 70s, all we managed was a wet week in Wales in February (also without my dad, who refused to participate).
I do think those figurines deserve their place in the china cabinet though, they're survivors. (I'm just checking my cleavage for dust now, it hasn't been seen in a while and you never know.) xxx

Goody said...

Wales in February sounds dreary, though I guess it depends where.

Knowing my family sense of adventure, my husband is reluctant to travel with me, particularly after that trip to Montreal in January.