Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pas De Deux

On our penultimate beach day in the spring of 2017, we note that "New France"has colonized early on the beach. At 6:30 am, our beach "cave" on stage left has been taken over so we claim a new spot. A much calmer day has the orange and yellow sails of the catamarans tacking in full view, and I am delighted and surprised to note a pair of kayaks  trailing a paddle boat in the sea. The serene calmness of this morning has little to no breeze and has brought out early morning crowds of families. The bocci ball court is drawn in the sand. Let the games begin!
This second last day passes so quick, it is as if I fell asleep! Time is quick and meaningless in the Caribbean. We make the most and enjoy life at the speed of Cuban life!

Our final day starts early as always. By all indications it will be a red letter day. Four stars. Three Michelin! top shelve! (I do go on do I not?). Vitor, my Cuban weather man and new amigo, agrees with my ratings at 6 am when we meet beach stage left.
"Bueno! Fantastico!" he tells me and then points to the solitary white puff of cloud and in his sign language indicates with his hands the cloud will depart westward. His grin is as big as his tranquility that his simple beautiful life offers him. Vitor's trade mark thumbs up will be missed when we leave.

My morning "Kibble", as Mary describes it, is a mix of cereals with natural yogurt to soften it. This start to the day, breaking my nights fast has been consistent for the most part on our vacation, and always chased or followed with fruits and cheese. We will have one more and last morning "Clap in" before our 9 am departure tomorrow.

Este Noche is the entertainment feature again tonight. I write this inside joke for my family. Readers (if any read these ramblings) can google translate this to understand my long running joke over the years of our Cuban resort visits.

The usual morning tranquility on beach stage left is welcomed. I mentally write more story lines for my Netflix idea of a prison facility that is run at an all-inclusive which rehabilitates rather than punish. I create the humorous dialogues that my series or movie will feature as I stand in line to get "Clapped in" for my kibble. I have changed the name from "Club Fed" to "Club Dump" in honour of, and borrowed from an old friend who I have not seen in a while. Bruce, my friend, and who I discovered Cuba with 30 years ago. We stayed at a 1 1/2 star resort, and I use the word resort with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

This wonderful vacation has been a fantastic inner journey for yours truly. A metamorphosis on many levels as well as several firsts! On this physical plane of reality, I played Bocci ball for my first time. A game that I associated as being for old Italian men in short sleeved buttoned down dress shirts, long black pants with their iconic black socks worn in sandals. Here on the beach, at 10 am the "Club animation" team marks the rectangular court in the sand, as young and old in bare feet, bare chests, and bathing suits, gather to make two teams. One small red ball is tossed, followed by the large 16 silver balls as each team member become fast friends and team mates. Quebec and Ontario n Cuba!

On the spiritual level, my former annoyance that was previously harvested by men and women jockeying for prime beach real estate to surf Facebook and text on their smartie pant phones, is all but a memory. This is a huge first for me, and one of many! From the Portuguese "Oil cake" desert, which after the first and only bite we both declared it and renamed it "Indian rubber ball cake", to the tiny hard boiled delicious Quail eggs we ate one day for breakfast. Six little eggs and I still needed my "Kibble".

A picture is worth a thousand words, and this humble attempt at describing our Cuban/Caribbean experience does little to paint for you, dear reader, the 3 pm scene of tranquility as I gaze out at the calm turquoise waters, sans sound, cochlear processor removed., on our last afternoon. If it were possible to do an MRI on my brain upon arrival, and again upon leaving this slice of paradise, I am beyond certain that my colours on the MRI scan would show the blues of the water, the orange and yellows on the sun and catamaran sails, and the whites of the sand here on beach left. This would contrast the Greys and dark colours on my "arrival scan"

We never know what the future holds, and I have given thought to wonder if I/we will ever return to Cayo Coco. We talk about the "Next time" and I am in a place where I taught myself to Dance to THIS music, and if the band plays in my future, our future, we will then dance again.

But today, at this point in our journey:THIS IS WHERE THE DANCE IS!



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cuban Beach Boy's

My "No Problemo" attitude has a wee hitch in it's giddy up. A Mariachi band has invaded my afternoon slumber party. Although not the usual mariachi group  that consists of as many as eight violins, two trumpets and at least one guitar. This Cuban beach boy band has two mariachi  guitars including  the vihuela:  high-pitched, round-backed guitar that provides rhythm, one trumpet, and a bass guitar called a guitarrón, which also provides rhythm. The bongo and the Morocco's add to the rhythm section. They have visited us, on this quiet afternoon,  to bless David and Mary's beach time with a few choruses of "Guantanamera". A famous Cuban song, and probably it's best known and noted song. It is of course from the the poem by the Cuban Poet Jose Marti. So just as Mary has nodded off into afternoon slumber land, the horn player hits a high C or b flat at a few decibels louder than a Miles Davis riff. Siesta is indeed over and this completes our Cuban experience" for the afternoon. We offer no CUC (Cuban tourist money), so in mid third chorus,  they move quickly on, sans ending, to ply their rhythm on other more  (hopefully)generous patrons of beach music.

Vitor is a native Cuban that greets me daily as the sun rises on the beach. At 6:30 daily, he sets up our beach chairs on his own inclination and unasked. Gives them a good sweep with his beat up half broom, then gives me his trademark Thumbs up. Vitor is a small happy native Cuban. Rag tag clothes, bare feet in old beat up clogs, weathered skin (is he forty or seventy? I can't tell), and a smile as wide as the Caribbean sea. He tells us that he makes 250 Pesos a month. He has a wife and four children. "Two small, two older" He is as content with his tranquil life and happy as a yellow bird is, up high in banana tree. 

Vitor tells us that he and his family have a wonderful life, His Children have free and very good health care/medical, free and excellent schooling, and housing is looked after. He loves his life and it shows. I tip him a CUC when I have one on me. A CUC is the equivalent of 25 Pesos, which is what he would make in two days salary. He does not demand or expect it, but he is as grateful as a school boy receiving ice cream on a hot day.

Vitor's gratitude for what life offers him gives me great pause today. Especially as I consider my belly aching last week when my Buick Regal was cold and I bitched silently that my car does not have a heated steering wheel. Sheesh. Vitor has no envy for us in vacation land with our unlimited EVERYTHING!  He walks the beach back and forth all day, every day,  5 am to 5 pm giving us all a thumbs up as he passes, as if to say "It's a tranquil  life" he tells us with his smile!

It is indeed

4 PM on the Beach "Stage left". The Cuban Beach Boy Mariachi band has long retired a few Pesos richer. Vitor ends his long shift stacking up the three or four hundred beach chairs, to make way for the Night Beach cleaning crew. I promise him a pack of "Hollywood" cigarettes when we arrive manyana, and I will make good on it,

He is our new friend.




At the Still Point, There the Dance is !

Day 7 in Cayo Coco, and the sea inspires snippets of  wonderful memory, and to an even more pleasant extent, the inspiration to record it with pen in my journal. Sea, sand, strong espresso with steamed milk, a Cuban cigar! They all add to the creative life experience. This has been an memory that I will not forget for a long time, but I record with pen in paper so I have for posterity.
We are "clapped in" as per usual custom here for us early diners at breakfast. My fruit and cheese is followed by a long serine walk in which Mary and I collect seashells for Aubrey  and memories for our internal visual photo memory album.
Today urban sprawl has invaded our little cave of serenity on the beach, yet we find some humor as we get some bikini clad "asses" in our faces as Mothers tend to their babies oblivious to us, and our personnel, treasured space. European dialects surround us in Dolby sound. Such is life among the blessed vacationers. It is what it is!

Today I am mentally writing a sitcom in which the story line revolves around incarcerating  prisoners in an all-inclusive resort rather than a traditional prison. In my story there is NO punishment, just positive rehabilitation that includes Yoga,, meditation, cooperative sports and lots of thinking. Prisoners can eat and drink as much as they want or need within the confines of the resort  and the "Canteen" hours of operation. There is no curfew or bed time or last call....lots to be learned for these convicts. Stay tuned as I will attempt to craft out this little bit of silliness before I turn 60, and offer to Netflix the pilot that would hopefully star Neil Crone as the "resident prison/resort veteran go to guy" as he, in my mindful pilot, has been in the "All-inclusive system" the longest.

The Beach life here is as predictable as the "Clapping in": The  ceremonies for meals performed by resort staff to welcome us early birds to dine. Beach "stage right" is Cabana land where the eleven (yes I counted them) cabanas are home to the snow birds (usually from Quebec) who rise and claim their spots prior to 5 am. Bless their Fleur de lis souls.

Beach "stage left finds us pure beach folks, with our cave dwelling mates (me) who choose the cozy confines of lush underbrush to do our meditating. This morning, as many others here are full out "Club Nino" : Nino: From Old Portuguese nio and Latin nidus meaning "Nest". I named it as mothers arrive all day with strollers, carry cases, bags, food, and babies to set up their little "Nests". Club Nino sticks for my duration here, I like the name.

Afternoons differ,  are in many ways the polar opposite to the Club Nino mornings, Afternoons are lull after the storm, The quiet that arrives after the cyclones have  left.  It is Montecristo Puritto time! Then Siesta!

Repeat daily




Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I believe I am clear at this stage and age, of what Life Branches I need to prune. And how to keep my new found blossoms bearing fruit. As well as which buds I need to nip on a daily basis.

 Twenty years ago my concerns was growth on the outside: Money, prestige, and catching the elusive rainbows of shiny happiness. It is by chasing, I believe, that I missed the moments. I missed my "reason we are here" moments for lack of a better metaphor. So arriving at this new station in life I allow David to enjoy the rainbow in all it's splendor. Rather than mourning the fading sun, I now marvel in awe at it's magnificent glory.

Three catamarans sail in my view as I write this. Now there are 6 multi coloured sails in my view. Awesome!

Old world David would not have noticed or cared. Today I note the colours of their sales, and admire the sailors technical ability to tack in these  Caribbean winds.
Reading Ian Brown's "Sixty" in this oasis is enlightening and appropriate. So much has gob smacked at once. Many lines in this book are worth re-reading as well as retelling to Mary in our short time on this Island paradise.

"Sorrow is the rust of the soul. and regret is the oxygen that makes it".
Holy Fuck!
"Everyone experiences the exfoliation of the remembered soul at a different rate, and in a different way"

I honestly feel the book this book is worthy of purchasing a paper copy (I am on a tablet), so I can re read whilst making liner notes.
"...this is what I long to be, as I head into the late innings: Less hidden, less afraid, more naked, less ashamed. I want to wear my fragility on my body -  not just my so-called need, but my intentions, and my doubts about those doubts, and the laughable wobbliness of my progress n all things. I want to be human and complex, more that I want to be right and clear".
Yes, yes, yes!

Just past lunch on Day 5 here, as  I finish "Sixty". Feeling more comfortable about my doubts about my doubts, and more secure in my decisions to be less afraid and less ashamed about them. The air here in Cayo Coco has a sleep tonic effect on me. Even after a day which has me polishing off 4 cappuccinos, I sleep like a baby from 9 pm to 6 am. Sleep for the most part here is uninterrupted, which is odd for me. Unusual when at home. Just to go 9 hours without a pee is wonderful!

There is a feeling I have of internal discovery. Reading "Sixty". Being in the moment. Paying attention to the moment. Noticing what I notice. More today than ever in my past.

The growth of my Joy is in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectation.

It's time for my afternoon siesta, then a wander to get a superb Café con leche.



Monday, March 20, 2017

This Is Why We Came Here

My wife Mary said something yesterday that hit me like the proverbial hammer. We had some struggles at our resort with very minor issues. Some long line ups, poor customer service etc that gave rise to a momentary anger and bitterness. As I began to mentally compare "better" vacation resorts that we have been to,  it led to this inner struggle. Mary, later that day on the beach while looking out at the aqua and turquoise Caribbean ocean and walking on the velvet white sand, listened to my bitterness patiently, waved her arms around gesturing to the wonders and beauty of Cayo Coco and said "This is why we come here !" Not only was she spot on, but my internal negative thoughts changes for the better.

I am for the most part, very much a glass half full guy. At times to my determent, as I refuse to accept the worse case scenario. I find the joie de vivre in most situations that life tosses our way. Is it too idealistic to view each and every moment in life as "This is why we came here!" ? Or even "This is God's grace and this is why we are here! To take part."

So now the questions I ask myself as I write on this beach are : Have I now reached the age of concession? "It is what it is", or have I reached and age of Gratitude : "This is why I am here, and am so grateful for it all"?

Mary has just returned from a fruitless expedition at the resort where "No towels today. Maybe Mayana" is the frustrating speech from an overworked towel lady, then the line up to book us an a La Carte meal gave us another "not gonna happen. Third world country (Cuba) is giving us First world grief. So I go to this: Should I be grateful for my Caribbean view as I lie under a Cabana on this world class beach (I am by the way) or should I be UN-accepting of the "What is"?

this Glass half full lad knows the answer to his question.

As a young boy in my "first quarter", I saw the world of  adults as the world of Oz! Streets paved with Gold, no curfews, eat what you want, when you want it; go to bed when you feel like it, not when you're told; sleek and wonderful cars to take us to destinations where "WE" wanted to go, and as fast as "WE" wanted. My "second quarter" was proof, in retrospect was that streets of "Gold" are not what gives inner joy. There will always be a street that has More "gold" on it. I always thought I needed to find that street to be happy until I realized Joy does not evolve from that. What I found was that there is always a nicer, faster car, bigger boat, better house. More importantly I discovered the difference between JOY and HAPPINESS.

So arriving at the "Sixty" train station, I now know that it is the "inner world.....MY" inner-world" where JOY exists.

And that my friends is why we come here!