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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Getting Started Part V; Da Dream Boss Da Dream

So I left off with the dream having faded away or in reality was dead.  We were living in a part of the world where the average rainfall is 18”, without a boat and a fulltime focus on my career at Texas Tech.  The first several years (hmm 20) here I was working 12 hour days seven days a week even over holidays so there was little time for much else.  Two major events in our lives that brought major changes to our family were about to sucker-punch us and keep us tied to both land and Lubbock for the foreseeable future.   So that was that, sailing, water, and boats had faded from our lives and the ocean had yet to enter mine.  If I thought about it at all I am sure I thought this was a natural progression from one lifestyle to another; right I was an adult, a grownup, family responsibilities and graduate school loans to pay off so I worked, a lot.  The thought of retirement was non-existent.  Jo would swear that I would work until I dropped dead and she was probably right.  That’s what you do right; work until you can’t work any more?  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my work.  I was designing scenery and lighting for shows from here in Lubbock to off-Broadway in NYC to St Petersburg, Russia and a lot of places in-between.  It turned out I was a pretty good teacher and more importantly I liked it.  When the opportunity presented itself to serve as Director of Theatre, in effect producer for the department, I slid into that role just as I did becoming department Chair 11 years ago.  If you were to plot a career path, this would have been a pretty good one.  Then in 1996 the theatre department formed a partnership with a Texas Tech alumni and his wife to create what became known as the Angle Fire Mountain Theatre in Angel Fire NM.  That opportunity led me to two passions, first, fly fishing which seemed to be the thing to do in the mountains, and after a lesson or two and a lot of sucking at it, I had gotten pretty good at it and still enjoy fishing for anything that swims, salt or fresh water with some feathers tied on a hook; preferably feathers that I tied on. The second passion my Julys in Angle Fire gave me, was one for the islands and the ocean as well as the awakening a dormant dream.  Now if I were you I would be confused wondering what a summer mountain theatre had to do with the ocean and the islands; ok that’s fair.  The answer came in a kind offer from an earthbound saint named Jimmy Linton, the then Property Manager for Angel Fire Resort, who’s generous offer ended up taking our lives on the course they are now headed.

Those of you who know me, especially the “me” of several years ago can attest that I was sometimes a bit intense.  Stress was not just a word but a lifestyle.  A lifestyle that would most likely place me on the road to the heart attack I was sure to have.  While we were moving one of the productions into the summer venue in 2001, Jimmy made me an offer I could not refuse.  Seeing that I was driving myself and those around me crazy he asked me, “where would you and Jo like to go on vacation if you didn’t have to worry about where you would stay?”  Without thinking about it, or knowing why, I said the Bahamas.  Shortly after that he came up to me with a condo for us to use in Marsh Harbor; Abaco; the Bahamas for the next summer, all we had to do was get ourselves there.  Well it wasn’t quite that simple; we had to arrange someone for our daughters to stay with; hello mom & dad!  Then there was Erik.  Finding a sitter for a multi handicapped child for a night out is bad enough, but long term, live-in care while we were in another country is another.  We got lucky, in that one of his teacher aids in High School who knew and worked with Erik was willing and available.  Airplane tickets were bought, us to Ft Lauderdale and on to Abaco, girls to Colorado Springs.  Hotels while in transit were booked; passports were located, and renewed.  Seems that the old passports had one stamp in them for a trip to London years before and we swore we would not let the new ones go down with only one stamp in them.  Then in August of 2002 be headed off for a real vacation!  By real vacation I mean no family destinations or children, just the two of us somewhere neither of us had been or knew what to expect.  We had gone on long weekends but nothing like this.  We knew nothing about where we were staying, only had a vague idea of how to get there once we got off the plane.  You might say this fits into the Captain Bob Bitchin philosophy of The Difference Between an Adventure and an Ordeal is Attitude, and we had the right attitude for this adventure.  In late July of 2002, with the exception of Erik, we drove to Dallas to catch a plane the next night, the girls to Colorado (their first time on a plane alone) and Jo and me to Ft Lauderdale for the night and a morning flight across a big blue ocean (well about 90 miles of it.)  

Nothing like this way out in West Texas-

As we approached the airport in Marsh Harbor out both sides of the plane you could see the wreckage of planes that didn’t quite make it, whether they were running from the DEA, local authorities, of just the victim of bad luck and/or bad weather it didn’t matter.  The Bahamians saw little value in removing the wreckage.  If it was in the water, once the fuel and other things that could harm the environment or be sold off were removed they let the plane return to the sea creating an artificial reef.  If they were on land the vegetation would quickly claim them and besides what would they do with it; so where it fell, it lived, unless it was blocking the runway then it was pulled off to the side.  When we got off the plane heat and humidity like we had never experienced in the states hit us; remember, attitude!  A sudden shower soaked our luggage that was sitting on the tarmac and the two of us as we waited to clear in through customs and immigration; attitude!  We grabbed a taxi or they grabbed us and off we went.  Third world taxis are different.  These were private vehicles, mostly mini vans, and the drivers are intensely proud of their taxi and expected you to respect it as if it were your car.  From the first taxi driver, who you would contact mostly by VHF radio, to everyone we met, we fell in love with the Bahamian people; a mixture of Africans who’s ancestors were brought there against their will and British loyalist who fled America instead of fighting the British during the Revolutionary war.  Plants we struggled to get to grow in Lubbock such as bougainvillea grew like weeds, there were palm trees everywhere, the squawk of parrots in the trees, and water a blue I had never seen outside of a paint tube.  Now, I had been to the Texas Coast and any similarity between that salt water and the water in the Bahamas is only due to salt content.   Our flight was earlier than when we could check in to the condo, which turned out to be steps from the Sea of Abaco; God Bless you Jimmy, so we decided to walk up the drive and get a drink; so what if it was only mid-morning, we were not only on vacation; we were on island time mon.  Someone we met on the plane told us about this place called Sapodilly’s with its specialty drink called the Dilly Willy. It consists of Nassau Royale, 151 proof rum, grenadine, and various fruit juices.  We ordered two and some Conch Fritters and all of a sudden every Jimmy Buffett song I knew came to mind and I don’t think the smile left Jo’s face for the week.  The week flew by with trips to a pig roast at Nippers on Great Guana Cay (pronounced Key), a trip to Treasure Cay with sand so white it was blinding and as soft a talcum powder, and on one rainy day, the result of being on the back side of a hurricane, we rented a car and discovered what we knew had to be that One Particular Harbor not just because it had a cheeseburger in paradise and no it wasn’t some lame marketing thing where it was named that, it was the best cheeseburger we had ever had and we were in paradise.  It was there at Pete’s Pub where we drank too much Kalik (an outstanding Bahamian beer) toured the gallery and foundry; see: and learned the history of Randolph Johnson, that we really fell in love with the islands.  We traveled further south on the island and discovered little hamlets, bars, beaches, and invisible cows (you have to ask Jo about that one.) 

I have never felt so at home, so relaxed, so depressed and anxious, all at the same time.  You see turns out that Abaco is arguably the sailing capital of the Bahamas if not the Caribbean, with protected seas from its out islands, constant winds, and wonderful anchorages with good holding.  There were sailboats everywhere.  Big, little, and huge; everything from square-riggers to Bahamian racing sloops, and something I had heard of but never seen, a cruising catamaran.  We wandered the docks of the Moorings (we later learned it is a big charter outfit) dazed and amazed.  I was overwhelmed as I looked at the complex rigging, lines, and scale of everything. Most amazingly, people were living on them!  My mind was flooded with questions, where do you sleep, how big of a crew do you need to sail one of these, and mostly, how do I get my ass to on one of them?

I turned 47 that trip, and while I was dining on Bahamian crawfish (aka spiney lobster), cracked conch, and more rum drinks overlooking sunset on the sea of Abaco and the sailboats docked there, a strange sense of Déjà Vu came over me as I though “I remember this dream” and I know Jo did too.  As I said, our time there ended much too soon and before I knew it we were back on an airplane with a backpack full of conch shells and luggage full of duty-free rum.  Once back in Lauderdale everything seemed, well, just not as nice.  The seafood we ate the night before we flew to Abaco at the restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale and tasted so wonderful, especially compared to what we could get in Lubbock, but now tasted like Long John Silvers or Dead Lobster.  I was annoyed by the pace and rudeness of everything and everyone; I was back in the States. “I vex that this not Abaco!” (Again, ask Jo to interpret that one.)

Jimmy offered a condo in the same location the next year and we went, of course.  Visited cays we hadn’t the first time, enjoyed the island at a slightly less frantic pace but made the mistake of trying to reproduce the exact same experience as the first visit and that was impossible. There is something about your first time of anything, first love, first kiss, first - hmm better stop there, but you know the feeling.   The second time is good, maybe great, but its not the “first time.”  The second trip however, provided the real motivation to get off land and on the water and that is where we will go in part 6-

A postscript:
I occurred to me after writing this that in a couple days it will be exactly 10 years since that night we spent in Abaco celebrating my birth.  In one way I can’t believe it has just been 10 years and if all goes according to plan the celebration of my next trip around the sun will be spent back in some particular harbor.

Da Plane!

Jo's first (but not last) Willy Dilly

Our Condo - God Bless You Jimmy!

The Beach at Nippers, Atlantic
Ocean in the Background

We Were At Nippers Down in Abaco

Limin at Treasure Cay

Treasure Cay

Da Beach at Treasure Cay

Pete's Pub in that
One Particular Harbour

Ahhhhh Kalik!

Now That's Some Fresnel Lens

The Lighthouse n Hope Town
One of the only remaining kerosine lighthouses

Fired Fish, Mac & Cheese, Peas & Rice, and Crawfish
Now That's Some Dinner (along with cold Kalik of course)
You Wonder Why You Ever Go Home

Not Happy At All Are We

I Remember This Dream!

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