Friday, June 18, 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean, c.4

Chapter Four: American Angels

We awoke the next morning, and I felt bad in that I'd pretty much just slept away a whole evening! What a waste! But, I guess we both needed it. Drinking in the afternoon will often to that to me, just make me sleepy and pass out. We crawled out of bed, and talked about what to do with our last day. Damn, I'll be home by evening! Let's let this day drag on!

I decided that I would walk down to the beach and perform my morning Qigong exercise. I'd been planning for a while to do this, just imagining how incredibly awesome it would be to be alone on the beach, one with the universe, drinking in the fresh morning Chi of paradise! And this was the perfect moment.

The sky had cleared and the morning sun beamed brightly across the bay. The white, sandy beach was vacant, and I indeed had the whole world all to myself. I was tingling with anticipation. This was like my own DVD, where they're always beachside in some amazing spot in an unnamed paradise showing you the exercise. Now, I'd found my own. It couldn't have been more perfect.

I found a shady location at the water's edge amongst the palm trees and fixed my gaze out into the beautiful blue Caribbean as my body gently flowed from one Qigong motion to the next. I cannot describe the peace and tranquility I experienced as the ocean waves broke across my bare feet, and I filled my lungs with the sweet, gentle sea breeze as I stretched my arms out wide, twisted my spine, tightened my muscles, and cleansed my Chi.

At the close of the session, I bowed towards the sea and then paused to take in the moment. Calmness. Serenity. Total peace. My mind was open, empty, peaceful. As was the ocean. Gently rolling and spilling across the beach with each wave, it stretched out before me to the horizon. It seemed endless, powerful, all encompassing. But yet still, quiet, unassuming, and benign. That carried over into my body, my mind, and my soul. Where one stopped and the other started, I wasn't sure.

A magical moment, a magical place, and an extraordinary opportunity for myself to experience peace, bliss, and contentment in such an incredible paradise. At that moment, I knew what it meant to be truly blessed. It wasn't something anyone could bring or give me. My children are a blessing. My parents are a blessing. My good friends are a blessing. My love, for Rebecca, or for any love I've ever shared in my life is a blessing.

But, this was different. This was personal. This was for myself. This was peace. This moment was mine. My gift from God. Maybe every moment is? It was up to me to be cognizant of it. On that beach, I stopped and realize that this is what it's all about. Take it in, drink it up, and let it fill my soul until my cup runneth over. Fortune was mine.

I met back up with Becca, and we went off to one last breakfast in Jamaica, enjoying some incredible coffee together. We also had to check out before noon, but were allowed to stay on the resort with full amenities until our coach arrived to take us into Montego Bay.

The bright Caribbean sun tanned our bodies as we sat out off the main pool enjoying some drinks. It was by far the sunniest and most beautiful day of the three that we were there. I even took off my shirt and baked in the sun for some color. I tan easily, and even if I burn, it's usually mild, and then develops into a nice dark tan. The hair doesn't tan so much, tho.

The beers went down smooth and delicious, and Becca discovered the Hummingbird, a drink my mother had recommended we try while on the island. Why she waited until the last day to try it, I have no answer, but she enjoyed the most by far of all the drinks she tried. Our neighbors from Troy, IL wandered by; they were down below at the pool bar which they said was much warmer today. They too were heading back to St. Louis today, but decided to get some more pool bar time in. Becca and I just wanted to relax in the sun. It felt warmer, and more inviting.

It was too brief a stay, to be sure, and we found ourselves back on the bus heading to the airport in the afternoon sun. I watched intently out the window as we wound our way along the Jamaican coast. Camera in hand, I snapped photos as I could to try and capture the Jamaican countryside and it's people. Young children were coming home from school, as I'd see them all wearing similar uniforms, carrying books as they were let off from bus stops. Small towns doted the coastline, with picturesque views that were breathtaking. The juxtaposition of the poverty and the beauty was astounding. Tiny, humble shacks resting amidst a sparkling, majestic coastline. I found it fascinating!

I continued to snap photos as I could, capturing the beauty in a pair of school kids wandering home, old men working on the roadside, small, run down stores and humble shacks, and the beautiful Caribbean encompassing it all. There was a simple beauty hidden with in it all.

Unfortunately, at one point I had to pee again! Too many beers at the bar before we left! Becca was getting uncomfortable as well. She really didn't think she was going to make it, and her eyes pleaded for me to do something. My poor girl! Guess I'll have to be a hero, and see if there was some way we can get them to stop.

There was one of the coach attendants riding along in back with us, and I asked if we were going to stop along the way, to which he commented that we could stop if we needed, no problem, mon. Hooray! He radioed up front to the driver, and quickly they made a pit stop for us. Several others leapt from their seats as well! We weren't the only ones! I tipped the attendant $20 bucks for the favor. Becca was greatly indebted to me for getting them to pull over, and I felt like a true hero for my girl. We were barely 20 minutes from the airport, but there didn't look as though she could have possible held out that long.

And, we were also very, very hungry! The next order of business was to get some food! I figured we could hit Margaritaville at the airport once we got checked in. That was my plan, anyway. Becca agreed. Lunch with Jimmy Buffet, and that damn song, over, and over...

As our coach pulled into Montego Bay, I glanced around to get one last look at Jamaica, it's people, and it's culture. Very unique! It's much more populated than the other parts of the island we visited, far more commercial development. Still, it didn't have a “big city” feel to it at all. Much more of a suburban vibe, interestingly enough. And, with everything in English, it didn't feel too foreign, but did feel Third World.

Jamaica is notorious for crime, mainly murder. I'd heard the horror stories, and the high crime rates. But, I suppose it shares that distinction with St. Louis. St. Louis has one of the highest murder rates in America, but to all of us that know it, know that 90% of that crime is in a couple very bad neighborhoods. Places most people should avoid anyway. Looking out the bus window as Jamaicans went about their daily lives, I wondered if that was the same here. Such a friendly, laid back people. Hard to imagine murder being a top issue. More than likely, it was from the same catalyst as back home: drugs and gangs.

Arriving at the airport, we made the bittersweet chore of gathering our luggage and take one last look at Jamaica. Getting through immigration and customs was lengthy as they were understaffed at the airport, but eventually we were allowed through and made our way to Margaritaville. The airport restaurant wasn't very crowded at all, and a young woman of interesting heritage was seated along with us at a large table, cafe style in the middle of the concourse. I sensed that our server thought she was with us. No matter. She quietly sat a few seats away from us reading a book and drinking a Red Stripe. It was if she didn't even notice us there at all.

I ordered up a spicy cheeseburger, and relaxed with a Red Stripe of my own. Becca found herself a souvenir hoodie from the gift shop area, and we dined on Jimmy Buffet's grub. Across from us was an Air Canada gate filled with milling passengers. Eventually, the young lady set down her paperback, and spoke.

“Are you going to Canada?” she asked.

“No,” we said. “St. Louis.”

We chatted briefly with her, and found that the Air Canada flight to Winnipeg had been delayed due to mechanical issues, and they were waiting indefinitely. Very frustrating. She worked for the airlines in some capacity, but I don't believe she was a stewardess. Knowing she was from Canada added to the intrigue of her ancestry. I believe she had some Indian or even Inuit, as her features were vaguely Asian, but a darker complexion.

When it was all said and done, the waitress slipped us the check. As I'd anticipated, she had put all of our meals on one ticket, which which was fine by me. I felt the need to do something generous. Perhaps it was the Jamaican spirit moving me. No problem, mon!

“Oh no,” the young lady said to our waitress, “I'm not with them” she protested when she discovered there was no check for her.

“Don't worry about, I've got it,” I told them, and paid for her meal. Hell, poor girl is stuck here, can't get home, and probably not the wealthiest of people. I know in my twenties, I was scraping every penny I could to survive. Might as well spread some good Karma. Made me feel good to do something randomly nice for a complete stranger.

The young girl was very appreciative, and take aback, I think. She didn't expect it. Neither did Becca. Beck gave me a warm, loving smile. She didn't know I had that in me, I guess. Just to randomly do something kind and generous for someone we didn't know. That made me feel very proud, to make her smile that way. To make her proud of me.

“Just consider it some help from your American angels,” I told her. “Hope you get back home soon.” With that, we left for our departing flight. Rebecca held my hand tightly as we walked away from the restaurant.

Night had fallen by the time we were in the air. I was still fascinated about flying over Cuba, looking down on the island nation, wondering about it's people, and it's culture. Will they ever throw off the shackles of oppression and join the world as we know it? I'm drawn there, inexplicably. I'd love to see Havana, love to see that nation be free and open again. Tiny specks of light dotted the island down below, and along the shoreline, were much brighter and more concentrated. But that was the only signs of civilization.

We traveled up the coast of Florida, and over a large metropolitan area. I studied it closely, noting the long bridges across a wide ocean inlet, and soon recognized it as the Tampa Bay region, where I'd traveled as a teen. Had an uncle that lived there. Fascinating to see a map like view come to life! Tracing the shoreline to St Pete Beach took me back to his wedding, and the week we stayed there. I was fourteen.

Memories flooded of a trio of young Welsh girls I befriended, one, very cute brunette seemed to have a crush on me, according to her older sister. I was so shy and unconfident, I didn't know the first thing about approaching her. I also met a fun Canadian teen that week that I palled around with. One warm summer night, we strolled the beach, and I saw written in the sand “Darren and Julie from England”. That was her sisters name. Guess I was meant to see that, I dunno. They didn't know how to spell my name. Jesus, hit me over the head, and I still don't get it sometimes. To be honest, 30 years later, I'm still just as clueless I guess. Instead of that Canadian, I should have been walking the beach with her. Dumbass.

Becca and I watched Nights in Rodanthe on the flight back, and snuggled as we could in the cramped airline seat configuration. I continued to glance out of the window and watch the world creep by beneath me. After the movie, the cabin screens remained on, and gave us feedback of what we were flying over, altitude, airspeed, etc. I love that part of the flight, it fascinates me. We were currently flying over Alabama, and places I'd just driven through last summer on our way to Panama City Beach, Florida. I had a bird's eye view of the highway, and it brought back vivid memories of our trip to the Gulf Coast.

New Orleans, Panama City Beach, Tampa/St. Pete, Cancun, Jamaica. I've got that part of the globe pretty well covered! And, I love it. Something just keeps pulling me to this area, The Gulf, The Caribbean, something that soothes my soul and lifts my spirit. The great food, the music, the party, hedonistic atmosphere, the friendly, carefree people.

Maybe I'm just a beach bum at heart?