Part Two in a Series
I wandered back along Placencia’s crumbled main street, and found the Pickled Parrot, a palm-thatched bar and grill where Christina’s boyfriend Greg worked as a bartender. I pulled up a stool at the bar and glanced around at the liquor selection; needless to say, their rum options were numerous. Greg must have been in his early fifties, with long, flowing gray hair, a neatly trimmed beard and crystal-blue eyes. He reminded me of a deadhead scientist, equipped with wire-rimmed spectacles that clung to the abrupt angle of his long nose. With a grunt and a nod he acknowledged me as he finished mixing a pink cocktail for another patron.
“What be’t fer you mon?” Greg asked, as he tossed down a Belikin coaster in front of me. I was thrown back by his unusual dialect, and the more he spoke the more it seemed to be a mixture of Creole, Italian and Spanish, with a peppering of brash New Yorker slang. I opted for the pink drink, a house specialty rum punch, and we quickly got caught up in conversation. It wasn’t long before I sussed out that he was a fellow East Coaster, originally from New York. He had been living in Belize for eleven years and had no plans to move back to the States. Greg was a cool, calm and friendly bartender, and like most New Yorkers, he loved to talk. I figured if I stayed long enough there was a chance I would find out too much about his life: previous mafia ties, run-ins with the law, etc. It was not uncommon in Belize, my kind bartender disclosed, to find out that an easygoing expat was a wanted man back in the States; the most common crimes involved blue-collar federal fraud.
As the night wore on and the heat of the day started to mix with the heavy pours of booze, I gripped Greg’s hand and told him we would be neighbors for a while, then paid for my drinks and said good night. There was a mild ocean breeze in the night air. I trudged through the sand, feeling good and ready for my first night’s sleep on the beach.
I awoke with the sun, as it rose and broke the vast liquid horizon of the Caribbean. A cool morning sea breeze drifted over me while I shifted in the sand. I sat up in my tent, stretched and looked out at the Technicolor dawn--another day in paradise. Smiling at my lack of sarcasm, I crawled out of my beach cocoon, dug my toes in the sand and reached for the palms. The sea shimmered and sparkled with silver-rippled, eye-blinding beauty. I slowly breathed in the moist morning air, stretching my wings from side to side. Warm foam spilled over my toes, calling to me like a steaming kettle on a brisk winter morning. As I answered its call, the air gave way to a soothing, salty, aqua massage. If this was a typical morning in Placencia, I was in heaven.
As I lay on the beach drying off, I stared up at the rustling palms, pondering the life of a coconut, sinking deeper into my meditative, tropical womb, pacified by the heart-like rhythms of the surf. A coconut grows, matures and sweetens with age, then falls to the earth, where it is eaten or returns to the sand. A few coconuts are chosen for adventure, called to bob and drift with the tides, ride along massive waves, and flow with the currents, living as one with the journey, uncaring and peaceful. Burly, barnacle encrusted, full of warm milk and a thousand sea stories, they are carried off far and abroad to foreign shores. There they wait for the next rogue wave to send them off on a new adventure. I think of myself as an adventure traveler. I believe in an unhurried journey, open space and a positive vibe, and allowing for the adventure to blossom. To be there to be there. When you free your time and free your mind, the adventures will flow freely, too. I don’t think I will ever look at a coconut the same way again.
A little later, I sat looking out the screened window of Omar’s diner, waiting patiently for my favorite morning dish of huevos rancheros. I noticed scores of travelers on main street’s jigsaw-puzzle path, rallying into the village from the heathen Southern Highway. The parade of heavy packs and sunburned skin passed by with curious looks and smiles. Indeed, I thought, how could anyone be unhappy here?