That one day when I’m with you …
I shine all day Sunday
That one day when I’m with you
That one day
It’s a fun day
Sunday is my day with you.
Oh man, Frankie, baby, you knew so well. Sundays are the kicks.
Two birds in the hand
And this Sunday kicked off in unique style. With a dull thump. A small bird flew right into the sliding glass door on the living room porch and was sitting there motionless, stunned.
The sight took me back to a year earlier when we found a bird, motionless, on its side but still breathing. It tried to stand up. And fell. I tried everything I could to revive it. Gentle strokes on the feathers, water, whispering and even a slight gentle rolling in a paper towel. The hit it took was too much and the bird died.
Later that day I was sitting on the steps, fixing my bicycle and still feeling badly about not being able to save the bird. A bird with very similar coloring landed next to me on the railing. Close enough that I could touch it. I did touch it. I stroked it on the beak and feathers on the back of its neck. It didn’t flinch. It didn’t flee..
I even brought it a little saucer of water, but it wasn’t interested.
Eventually it flew off, leaving me with the oddest feeling that I had just witnessed something beyond our normal scope of reality.
I didn’t want to lose another. This one at least was on its feet, if rigid. Its eyes would occasionally open wide, then close. I got down on my stomach and gently stroked its wings and back, put water and soaked bread before it. And soon it began to revive. Hopping a short distance away. And a few minutes later it flew off the porch and away.
That was Sunday morning. The very same thing happened again, Sunday afternoon. A different type of bird, same story. Stunned. Upright. Eyes closed and trembling.
I went into bird whisperer mode, on my belly with a little water and a light touch. The second bird responded much quicker and began hopping around the porch, shaking its wings — and soon slipped off the porch flying south in the same direction as the first bird.
What were they? Warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, wrens?
The talk of the town lately is Pedro’s new waterslide. Peter “Pedro” Lawrence has been pimping out his latest acquisition, Caribbean Villas with fresh decks, a three-story backpack hotel, nice pools, a floating trampoline, rentable watercraft, a greatly expanded beach and now, the island’s (but not the country’s) only waterslide.
Real rollercoaster and waterslide fans would chortle at a two-and-a-half-story waterslide being dubbed El Diablo, but there you go. Welcome to Belize where hype is often way better than reality. I’m talking about you, Blue Hole.
Anyhow, this is Slow Season, which is the time, apparently, that we have convinced tourists that Belize is too weathery and uncomfortable or something, just so we can get a month’s peace and quiet. And it is working. It is really quiet here. And gorgeous. The winds are calm, the sea is flat and the visibility under water is simply remarkable.
Slow season has brought out an amazing variety of birds and sea creatures for us to enjoy, without being harassed. The animals. Without the animals being harassed. Snorkeling and bird watching has never been better nor more bountiful. Hey, like I noted above, they come right to your doorstep.
We even have a small lake out front of our condo complex, left behind by our one significant rainstorm this season, that is filled with aquatic birds and, I’ve been told, a juvenile crocodile. I haven’t seen it, but I’m looking.
But none of this has to do with Pedro’s slippery phallic monument, El Diablo. It is both an eyesore, an object of fascination and possibly an endless source of entertainment (if the pricing scheme is correct).
It’s grand opening was set for 9:30 a.m. Sunday and word had spread that a local island personality we know as Jake from State Farm (and I don’t know why) — actual name Nile A. Duppstadt — had paid an outrageous sum to be the first one down the chute. Rumor was his fee also provided a lifetime pass for the slide, which might work.
Anyhow, we had to see it to believe it.
That is why eight of us piled into the Way-Lin Eh on Sunday morning. Our pals Wayne and Linda had graciously offered to ferry us to the slide for front row seats on this auspicious bit of historic island history. Plus, when the hoopla was over, we could boat on over to the newly reopened Estel’s for breakfast. Now that is an event.
En route, our friends universally rejected my plan to bring the Way-Lin Eh up alongside the pier and deploy grappling hooks to the tower. Wearing bandannas and eye patches, we could scale the scaffolding and ride the chute first, stealing away in our craft before the landlubbers could react. And maybe raid their liquor chest along the way ….
Instead, because it was hot and nothing ever starts on time here, and also because the carpenters were still adding handrailings to the structure, several of us used the delay to jump ship and float around in the bath warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. Apparently Jake and Pedro were trading shots of Fireball, to calm Pedro’s nerves and bolster Jake’s courage, perhaps.
It must have worked. Jake was soon marching down the pier to the strains of music from “Rocky,” a cape on his back and long stringy feathers in his trademark headband with a retinue of well wishers and schadenfreuders trailing behind. Most were hoping for free drinks at the newly installed bar at the end of the pier, alongside the waterslide. Because, you know, waterslides and alcohol have always been a great mix.
Wait, this just in: It isn’t a bar. It is a “service area extension” of the very nice bar on land at Pedro’s Amber Cafe. Oh, don’t ask me; you sort it out.
With all the cocky swagger of a pirate marching to the gallows, Jake climbed the stairway to his own private heaven and stood at the top of the slide, arms raised in jubilation. A drone buzzed overhead capturing the moment and making me feel quite insecure with my pathetic little iPod camera.
Drones, by the way, since you asked, are like kettle corn — in that they define every event at which they are present. Go to a county fair, a farmer’s market, a sidewalk art sale, an Italian heritage festival, a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a Greek church carnival and what sensory souvenir do you walk away with? The sweetly acrid scent of kettle corn.
And drones? People simply stop whatever it is they are doing and start jumping up and down, waving and trying to draw the drone’s attention. It is like an air-to-land assault selfie.
Now back to our narrative.
Jake lived. His passage into local history lacked the gravitas of “One small step for man ….” but after he resurfaced from an explosive discharge of water at the end of the chute, he did scream out “I am alive!” And that is something.
After he went down twice more with no apparent likelihood of greater excitement ahead, we departed like a bunch of disappointed NASCAR fans sitting on the rail of an L-turn. We later learned that a woman was knocked unconscious while exiting the chute. Apparently the proper way to ride a slide is flat on your back, arms folded to your chest, legs straight ahead.
Nothing says back-to-normal like the reopening of Estel’s on the waterfront. The much-beloved restaurant traditionally closes for September and this year there was a delay opening as some significant renovations took place, including a bar with indoor-outdoor seating and upgrading of the inside dining space.
The opening has been well covered by the local bloggeratti so I own’t belabor this event.
We tied up at a nearby dock and Estel’s had enough vacant tables under the palm trees for us to pull three together, the perfect place to relive the excitement of the inauguration of Pedro’s Coney Island baby, El Diablo.
For the record, I had two eggs over east, fried potatoes, bacon and fryjacks. Something else new at Estel’s is the limited edition Marie Sharp’s Smoked Habanero sauce and take it from someone who NEVER spices up a dish, that stuff is dope. The cresting wave of sweat atop my balding head is proof that his stuff works as advertised. I may become a spice-head after all.
I think we could have all lingered under the palms at Estel’s for hours, except that Sunday was our Canadian Thanksgiving and we all had things to do before the covered dish Thanksgiving at Coco Loco’s waterfront bar, sort of our neighborhood Cheers.
Wanye docks his boat on the lagoon side of the island and that requires traveling down the mangrove-lined San Pedro River and by the west end of San Mateo, the single poorest neighborhood on all of Ambergris Caye.
San Mateo doesn’t show up in the travel brochures but tourism couldn’t exist without these people. The neighborhood grew out of some imaginary land that was marked up into plots and given to the poor as homesteads. Much of it was underwater and what people often mistake as trash-filled lots are really land reclamation projects. Belizeans used everything and anything to bring their lots above water and then covered them with seaweed, palms and eventually sand.
Houses are built on stilts which is good today because higher than normal tides have overrun this community with water. The 440 students of Holy Cross Anglican School must wade through mucky brackish water while much of their own campus, riding high on stilts, is flooded over.
There is such a thing as San Mateo Pride and you see it in pockets here and there where newer, more-permanent houses are being built. On our way out, we watched a crew of young men tearing down a derelict boat shed for salvage wood. It was completely gone and probably metamorphosing into someone’s new home by the time we returned.
Just thought you should know.
The annual Canadian Thanksgiving pot-luck supper is always a revelation. For one, even though our entire boat Sunday morning was filled with Canadians and there is a standing street hockey game every Thursday afternoon on the island — who knew there were so many Canadians here?
Another thing: You wear red and white for Canada Day (and should their football team ever make it to the World Cup playoffs) — not for Thanksgiving. Yeah, I felt a bit stupid. But my red shirt got lots of compliments.
But there were things to do before dinner.
For one, I jumped on my bike straight off the boat and pedaled over to Carmen’s house with my wood glue and rope. Two nights earlier during an Indian cuisine dinner, I broke one of her beautiful laminated wood bar-stools. That is the third one I’ve broken since moving to the island so I now know how to repair them. I must not be sitting on them right …
Friday’s dinner, flown in from Belize City on Tropic Air, was a whole other thing. It was titled Curry and “The Life of Brian,” but we never got around to screening the Monty Python movie. Just jonesing on Indian food and good conversation filled the night.
While I’m at it, many of the same folks gathered on Saturday to plan and construct costumes for Halloween, which is kind of huge here on Ambergris Caye. You’ll have to wait until the end of the month to here more on that.
I also had two toilets at home that needed minor repairs — broken chains on the flush handles. No big deal.
The golf cart that won’t start? That is a whole other issue that must wait until Tuesday because Monday is a national holiday.
After resuscitating the second bird we were pretty well ready to head out for Thanksgiving, me carrying Rose’s piping hot string bean and bacon dish on my bike and her with the exquisite cranberry sauce.
Carmen had just added six new lounge chairs to Coco Loco’s, pointed out to sea, and half of us gravitated to the chairs and sea wall for most of the evening, capturing what slight breeze came our way and chowing down on an amazing variety of dishes, including two turkeys and hams and all the trimmings.
I won’t say every day is like this, because it isn’t. I mean today, my friend Steve and neighbor Randy and I spent the hottest point of the day trying to figure out why the golf cart isn’t running, to no success. But Randy is a great tutor and Steve and I learned a thing or two about golf carts. So the day was not lost.
But a day like Sunday leaves me filled with gratitude for the friends we have and that some twist of fate brought us all here to Ambergris Caye in Belize.
And grateful that there is a whole other Thanksgiving to celebrate in another month.
Who knows? Between now and then Pedro may figure out how to install a roller coaster at Caribbean Villas and we’ll have something else to discuss endlessly into the night.