Briland News & Tales
All Island Aid Frances 2004 U.S. Navy Base Education Centres
Behind the Scenes
Winslo Runs The Marathon
by Brock Peters
it's hot out," Winslo commented.
"Only four more miles left, and I'm finished training for the day. Thank God," said Winslo, huffing and puffing.
"Only one week, Winslo. Only one week till you leave the Bahamas and head for Chicago for the marathon," emphasized Kenneth, driving in his pickup next to Winslo while giving him water as he ran. As Winslo once again ran around the perimeter of the four-mile island, his feet sank up to his ankles in sand and his legs felt like rubber. He was remembering the morning he picked up the paper and saw the ad for the Chicago Marathon, and how it inspired him to run in it.
"Winslo, you're crazy. You will never finish the race, mon," said a fellow islander. "Winslo, where you going to get the money to go, mon?" asked one of his close friends.
"Don't worry, mon. I've got the money." emphasized Winslo.
"What if you don't finish the race, mon? Then what do you do?" asked yet another islander.
"That's why I'm training hard. So I can finish the race. I know I've never run in any race before, but I have a dream and that dream is to run and finish that race," said Winslo confidently.
After finishing the training for the day he started thinking to himself. "Can I actually finish this 26-mile race? Maybe I should start training harder. Hey, I could use my old fanny pack and fill it with sand so it makes me work harder. I could also wear a long sleeve T-shirt to make me feel hotter so I work harder to build up my endurance."
* * *
As Winslo boarded his plane, he wondered what he would do when he got to Chicago. He planned to arrive a few days early in order to relax before the race.
"Sir, would you like a newspaper?" asked the stewardess. "Why yes, I would," said Winslo.
As Winslo shifted through the newspaper, he recognized a picture of the Chicago Bulls and remembered that Brett Carlson, the person who was to meet him at O'Hare, was going to take him to the Bulls game Thursday night. It was something he wanted to do for a long time. He still wished Michael Jordan played on the team so he could finally see him. He really wanted to see him, because everybody mistook him for Michael Jordan. He was the same height as Jordan carried the same facial features but he didn't wear an earring like Mike.
* * * *
"Hi Brett! How's it going?" hollered Winslo over the loud Chicago traffic.
"Great! How bout you?" asked Brett.
"Just a bit tired from the plane ride," said Winslo, still struggling to get across the street.
"Here, let me help you with that bag." said Brett, picking up the bag. "Don't worry, it's a short ride to the Maddox's house." said Brett.
* * * *
"Karin, where should I put his bag?" asked Brett.
"Up the stairs and first room on the left." said Karin.
"Winslo, would you like something to eat or drink?" said Karin.
"I'll have just a water. Thank you." said Winslo.
"Winslo, would you like to go to Grant's hockey game tonight?" asked Karin. "You don't have to, but Grant would love to see you."
"Sure I'll go," said Winslo.
"You don't have to go if you don't want to," said Karin.
* * *
"Man, am I filled up with all that pasta," said Winslo humbly. "I think I'll just go up stairs, rest for a while, then get to bed early."
Winslo woke up that morning to a beautiful sunrise. He was feeling refreshed and nervous about the race. He had planned for a long time for this day, and was ready to race his heart out until it stopped beating.
Winslo walked from his hotel to the starting line, visualizing the race and him running in it. When he got there, he was surprised at how many people were actually running in this race. There were men and women of all races, sizes and shapes waiting for the same moment -- the start of the race.
"Crack" went the starting gun as the race started. Winslo was having a tough time maneuvering through the large crowd of 35,000 people.
"Man, I never noticed how many people were actually running in this race," said Winslo as he tried to weave through the hordes of people. As Winslo ran through Chicago he noticed his environment around him. "Wow, these skyscrapers are huge. They make me feel like a tiny little ant," he said to himself.
As Winslo passed the 6-mile marker he saw some people holding up signs that said "Run Winslo Run" and "Go Bahamas" or "Keep It Up, Winslo."
"Hey look, it's the Maddox and Carlson family," said Winslo who was running out of breath.
"Look mom, it's Winslo there he is." said Brock. "
"Hurry up kids, hop in the car so we can go to the next mile marker," said Karin, who was trying to rush the kids into the car. As Winslo ran, he noticed the Maddox and Carlson family's cars driving next to him while he was running. Seeing his friends gave him lots of energy and hope.
As Winslo approached the halfway point, he felt the urge to go to the bathroom. When he got to the halfway point, he searched for a port-o-potty. After he used the bathroom, his legs began to cramp up. As a result, it took him a lot longer to get running again at the same pace he was at when he started.
"Mom, where is he?" asked Brock with concern.
"I don't know. Maybe he is just resting, or maybe he is hurt." said Karin in desperation.
"Mom, I'm getting tired of standing here," said Brock.
"Don't worry. He should be here any minute. Hopefully." said Karin.
"That's what you said five minutes ago." said Brock.
"Okay Brock, I'm getting worried too. I'm going to head down to the halfway point to see if he is hurt," said Karin.
"Mom, here he comes! There he is. Yeah, Winslo! Keep up the good work," screamed Brock enthusiastically.
As Winslo approached the 24.3-mile marker, it came evident to him that it was going to be tough for him to get to the finish line even if it was only two miles till the end.
"I've come all this way from all the training and the long days working to get the money to come here. I'm not ready to give up now, and besides it's only two miles. That's not that far," said Winslo with determination.
As Winslo thought this out loud, he started to speed up and pass the other racers in front of him with determination and power. In just a few minutes -- actually nine -- he was at the finish line.
As Winslo finished the race, he said one last thing before he collapsed. "Anything can be done when you put your heart, soul, and mind to it," said Winslo with power in his voice.
Thirty five years ago this week my grandfather took our family on a Windjammer-style cruise through the Central Bahamas. He had recently turned 65, and the cruise was a retirement celebration. Our party consisted of himself and my grandmother, my mother, my younger brother, and me (age 15 at the time). Originating in Nassau, we visited the Exumas and Eleuthera, finally returning to Nassau to rendezvous with my father who had passed up the cruise due to his profound tendency to seasickness.
The vessel was a large sailing catamaran, the Tropic Rover. She was perhaps 150 feet in length with a huge beam, probably 50 feet. She carried 50 passengers and a crew of ten, skippered by the very knowledgeable and affable Syd Hartshorne. The passengers seemed to gravitate into two groups of roughly equal size, the "Idlers" and the "Wilders". The Idlers included families, retirees, and a few odd gentlefolk. The Wilders were the party animals. The would stumble out of their bunks late in the morning, grumble about having missed breakfast, and slowly gain momentum through the evening meal and on into the night, when they would noisily drink and sing bawdy calypso songs at the ship's semicircular bar into the wee hours, much to the dismay of the Idlers. The ship carried two tenders, and we would make day trips to wonderful beaches and islets and small communities. While we explored and snorkeled and fished, the Wilders would find the nearest "yacht club" and boisterously party, much to the chagrin of the shy locals.
One beautiful Sunday morning found us reaching along Eleuthera's western shore. Late in the day we anchored off Governor's Harbour. The Wilders immediately clamored for a shore party, but the Captain told the group that the cook was preparing a special Sunday meal (prime rib) and that we would be staying aboard that night. When pressed by the rowdies, Captain Syd explained that the locals were quite religious, that they spent all day Sunday in church and devotional pursuits, that none of the restaurants, etc., would be open, and that we would go ashore in the morning. The Wilders adjourned to the ship's bar, and after an hour of furious drinking two of them donned fins, jumped ship, and swam to the government dock. They returned a short time later in a small outboard with two local men, explaining that a tavern owner had been persuaded to open at sundown, and that we were all invited. A band had even been found. The captain expressed some doubts, but after discussing the matter with the two young black men, and at the manic urging of the party animals, he reluctantly agreed to lower one of the tenders for an 8 o'clock shore party.
our little group would not have participated in such an outing, but while
we were watching the two Wilders swim ashore my grandfather spied what appeared
to be a US military Jeep with a crew of four. He later inquired of the two
Bahamians, and they confirmed that there was indeed some sort of "satellite
base" on Eleuthera, security for which was provided by US Navy Shore
Patrol. This intrigued my grandfather as he was ex-Navy, and he decided
that we should go ashore with the others and perhaps have an opportunity
to meet the sailors.
Sharing the street with us was a small group of locals, men and teenagers, who were obviously displeased. As we began to hurry toward the dock, other men appeared around us, none speaking, all dark and serious. We reached the dock only to discover the tender hadn't arrived; we were a few minutes early. I heard my grandmother's voice, "Daddy, they're picking up rocks!" Indeed, the locals were gathering stones, pieces of wood, things that were obviously weapons. It looked pretty ugly for us.
Suddenly the Navy Jeep with its crew of four came screeching around a corner. The Jeep was quite old, but impressively carried a WWII vintage 50 cal. air-cooled machine gun. The Petty Officer in charge wore a .45 on his hip; we saw no other weapons. Several of the Wilders pathetically beseeched the sailors to "Save us from the mob!" The Petty Officer asked for quiet, then queried, "Did all you people come off that British sailboat anchored out in the harbour." Several responded that we were indeed Americans who just happened to be vacationing on an American boat the just happened to have UK registry. The Petty Officer replied, "I"m sorry, you're British subjects on British soil, we can't help you." The crowd edged closer.
It was my grandmother's habit to wear a large straw hat when we were in the tropics. I heard my grandfather take a deep breath, then he snatched the hat from her head and addressed our crowd in a low, firm voice. "Everybody empty your wallets into this hat, NOW. I want watches, jewelry, anything of value. Do it quickly!" No one hesitated. In short order the hat was filled with paper money, change, bracelets, earrings, the works. He carried the hat to the Jeep and spoke. "Petty Officer," he exclaimed, "I served aboard the USS Pennsylvania in World War One. Several of these men are veterans as well." He offered the hat to the Petty Officer and hissed, "Take this and get us out of this jam." The Petty Officer looked at what must have been hundreds of dollars, then turned to a crewman. "Mr. Grim," he barked, "Rack the Fifty!" A sailor jumped to the gun, leveled it just above the heads of the group of locals, pulled back a large lever on the side the gun which made an impressive metallic CRACK, and no one moved. After what seemed like an eternity, the locals slowly dispersed. Within a moment or so, the tender arrived and we were so on our way back to the ship.
It was a quiet ride. After a time two of the Wilders approached my grandfather and thanked him for managing the situation. He nodded and then smiled, "Hell of a bluff, wasn't it?" My mother, who had up until then been in shock, blurted, "What.?" My grandfather gently responded, "The machine gun, there was no ammo belt, it was empty, I'll bet it hasn't worked in years." Even in the darkness I could see the color drain from her face.
Back at the ship, Captain Syd gathered the party into the salon and sternly addressed us. "I think we all learned an important lesson tonight. This isn't America, customs here are different, and we all need to remember to honor and respect those differences. We're guests here, and it's nothing more than good great luck that the Navy rescued you. And we all owe a big 'Thanks' to our friend from the Pennsylvania." My grandfather stood to hearty applause, and thanked to crowd. The Captain concluded, "I'm ordering the bar closed for the rest of the night. I suggest we all turn in and start over in the morning." There was no dissent.
A short time later, as I lay in my bunk, I heard my brother's voice. "Are you awake?" he asked. "Yeah, I can't sleep." He paused, then, "When I grow up, I want to be just like Grandpa."
So do I, I thought, so do I.
Hey, yinna --
The new site is being carefully-cultivated -- thanks to Hartman Saunders -- and continually watered -- thanks to the Harbour Lounge -- to make sure that the newly planted roots "take" to its new site of honour. Thank you to Jill Curry Lorey of Harbour Island Realty for spearheading the logistics of the project, a HUGE thank you to the two anonymous tree donors who made such a gift possible, thanks to the Briland Modem for promoting the effort, thank you to members of local government for making everything happen on schedule ... and a heartfelt thank you goes out to the generous supporters of the Briland Modem Fund both on and off the island who ensured that the project was well-funded. We'll have pictures up on the site as quickly as can be arranged.
days 'til Junkanoo --
What To See
Old Dunmore Town: The original capital of the Bahamas with its quaint clapboard houses built in the 17th century, are a photographer's delight. Colorful blossoms of tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea's, and oleander spill over into the narrow streets from well-kept gardens, small boats pulled upon the beach, and a big fig tree-landmark of the shipbuilding days-under which the local gentry gather to discourse.
Pink Sand Beach: Yes, it is really pink. It's broad, generous, self-protected and soft to the touch of your toes, and is on the Eastern Shore, only minutes away from any point of town.
Loyalist Cottage: This historic building dates from 1797. Standing in Bay Street on the island waterfront, it is an eye-catching reminder of the island's past.
The Little Boarding House: This building on the corner of Bay and Murray Streets, was the first hotel on the island.
Wesley Methodist Church: Located on Dunmore and Chapel streets, this church was built in 1843 and has a fine interior.
Commissioner's Residence: At the corner of Goal Lane and Colebrook Street, was built on the former property of Lord Dunmore who was Governor of the Bahamas from 1786 to 1797 and the last Royal Governor of Virginia. Renown for the various buildings constructed under his governship, he built a summerhouse at Harbour Island in 1790 and also a fortification known as Barracks Hill. Dunmore House was demolished in 1912 and a new house, the Commissioner's Residence, was built for L800; being completed in 1913.
Dr. Johnson's Memorial: This was erected in memory of Dr. AlbertJohnson M.D.J.P. (1837 -1895) a native of Harbour Island. He was the first qualified Bahamian doctor. It stands on the corner of Dunmore and King Streets.
St. John's Anglican Church: Originally built in 1768, this church is one of the oldest foundations in the Bahamas. St. John's was severely damaged in hurricane Betsy in 1965, and is now beautifully restored.
Sixty-Six Steps: There are sixteen steps on Bay Street cut out on of solid rock in the 17th century by a convict. The steps are most likely namedafter the year in which the work was done.
Sir George Roberts Memorial and Library: Located on Dunmore Street, it was erected in memory of Sir George Roberts. (1906-1964) A native of Harbour Island who was for many years a Member of Parliament, and the first President of the Bahamian Senate. (Jan. 1964 -June 1964)
Old Guns: These six ancient cannons are to be found at the island's southern tip (South Bar) They were used during the 17th century to defend the island from the pirates who infested the Bahamas and the West Indiesat the same time.
Roundheads: Located on the very south end of Bay Street. In the 17th century it was one of the shore batteries, which protected the island. Cannons, chains and a large water cistern lined with square bricks imported from England remain today at Roundheads as a reminder of earlier fortifications.
Higgs Sugar Mill: This building standing in Bay Street was one of three sugar mills on the island which produced sugar and syrup to be shipped tothe United States.
Glass Windows: On the mainland of Eleuthera, five miles south of Harbour Island, a strip of land where the island is nearly dived. The rocks rise to a height of seventy feet, yet there is a bridge used regularly by natives. Many times a ship in the Atlantic has been tossed about, and the crew looking across the narrow, will see a ship resting quietly on the other side: hence the name, "Glass Windows".
World's Largest Coconut: Located on Barracks Street at the VIC-HUM CLUB. Music, dancing under thestars, basketball, ping-pong. Conch Town Restaurant. 333-2161.
Since your trip to Harbour Island
will be your first exposure to Kalik beer, the local refreshment of choice
made in the Bahamas, I feel compelled to share a few of my Kalik moments
and illustrate the whole new world waiting your arrival. I first discovered
Kalik almost 20 years ago, and the memories are sweet and lasting.
The first and perhaps my favorite memory is of the time that I dozed off at the wheel of my golf cart and drove it off the end of the abandoned airstrip into the bay. Very exciting, as it took several dives to recover the 2 cases of Kalik I had next to me on the front seat. I'm pretty sure that I also retrieved the cart at some later date. Yes. Kalik was navigating that day ...
Then there was the day I flat-out walked through the sliding screen door of my time share unit. Again, Kalik was at my side that afternoon.
There was a very interesting evening several years later when, returning from a visit with Kalik on the beach, I mistakenly entered the wrong time share unit - in my defense, they were identical and locks weren't used in those days -- and crawled into bed, only to find another man with my wife! Of course it wasn't my wife, and fortunately the occupants were good and understanding friends who guided me home and tucked me in.
Kalik can be so much fun, Robin. I vividly recall the morning that I discovered a Palmetto bug on my toothbrush and swinging my empty in defense, hit my honey on the noodle knocking her off the pot into the bathtub full of Kalik, ice and limes. Two bottles were lost, so fearing that I might run short I immediately replaced them with a case. No sense taking chances. Ah, Robin, such memories.
These are but a few and I could go on and on but space is limited so I'll conclude with a final thought. In all fairness, I must say there are those among us who don't share my lust for Kalik, and have instead drifted from the mother ship and fallen in with a vile concoction called Mount Gay rum. They've forsaken the lifeblood of the island and I fear they may be cast out, even stoned. Sad.
Sad too that living in New York I'm unable to buy Kalik. Although I've beseeched my beer distributor, he is unable to import it. As luck would have it though, I've been able to find a fair substitute called Corona. Corona too stirs many fond memories. There was the time · ah, but that's another story for another day.
So you see, Robin, the memories that a cold bottle of Kalik can provide are endless, and you have to but unlock your heart and let them happen. Who knows, when you return from the island you too may have an album of memories ready to be shared with the next first timer.
Always remember, great memories start with a Kalik and a good chug-a-lug · a beautiful sight to behold.
Good Luck - Ken Smith
Long Island, New York
Looking back upon my island companions,
asleep on stolen beach chairs, drunk from Kalik and gold rum, I bid them
farewell and stumbled alone down the famed pink sand beach of Harbour
Island, Bahamas in search of conversation.
The first thing one notices about this beach is that if there is to be conversation, you might as well talk to yourself, because there is no one for miles. Sure, the occasional couple might be walking by now and then, in search of the same elusive conversation I sought, but other than that, no one. Okay, there was one Rasta guy. But, I would rather have exchanged places in life with him, rather than words.
I like walking a little in the water, up to my shins. Dragging my feet a little to give the illusion that I have no destination or place to be at a certain time. Overtly swinging my arms like I did back in the military years ago. Convincing myself that I just don't care who looks at me or what they think, like I do so much back at home. I pondered taking off the only piece of clothing I wore, my swimsuit. But I immediately thought better of that. I'd need a lot more Kalik to feel as anonymous as I wanted to, to blend in with the family jewels on exhibit. So I continued down the beach in search of whatever one looks for in a beautiful place like this with seemingly one thing to offer. Absolute nothingness.
There aren't many shells on this beach. Maybe there are some little ones that the shellhunters haven't yet borrowed for their Bahamian souvenirs for sale on Bay Street. Just a few remaining that visitors to the island hadn't taken home in their bulletproof Samsonite luggage that Mr. Bo Henghy brought over and will gladly take back.
There were a few cool-looking sticks and some sandy, earth-compressed rocks and even one broken sea fan that I left behind, as I certainly had enough of this stuff at home. My wife had quite a large collection growing in our laundry room in California, thinking she'd make some composite craft art piece of our visit to Briland with the scraps she'd found along this beach last year.
She's an avid shell-hunter, complete with her beloved Nassau-straw-market-bought-Rasta-guy-made shoulder bag stowing her treasures as she walks this same beach. She asked me once if she could do this for a living, hunting for shells, providing that I won the lottery. Of course, I said yes. I'd even buy them from her, I said.
It was a warm day with little cloud cover, but the humidity was high, so I walked further into the ocean until I was chest-high and feeling relieved. I dunked my long hair into the clear water and flung it back like a supermodel, making a dinosaur-back with the water. I think they may have called him, "Triceratops." Or something like that. I don't know. It's been awhile since I thought of being like a dinosaur.
Back on the beach, I walked along the shore and after a while glanced back. How long had I been gone? My friends were getting smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, just like in "Smokey and The Bandit" when Burt Reynolds was flooring the Trans Am and watching Smokey get smaller in his rear-view mirror. "Bye-bye, baby." He sang. Man, at the time, that was quite a car. And Burt was the biggest actor in Hollywood. Heck, they made three of those movies, and one was with an elephant. An elephant!
I figured that if I kept walking long enough, I'd eventually end up where I started. It is an island, right? The more I walked, the more I realized that it might take at least one sequel for me to finish this walk. This island seems small when you're racing around in your golf cart, looking for all that seems interesting, and things that you just can't miss. But, when you're walking, it's huge. I thought again of the Rasta guy. I should've asked him if he had any pot.
Dumb question, unless he was down on his luck. But isn't that what all Americans do when they're in the Caribbean? Try to lose themselves in some culture that they think revolves around a boredom-lessening substance with the locals? "I mean, really. How can these people exist on this island?" If they think that being Rasta or island local revolves around pot, they just don't get it, do they?
My Kalik-buzz was wearing off. The sun was hot. "Come to the islands." The brochure always reads, "The land of sunshine." If I lived here, I'd have to wear nothing but sandals and shorts. The ground is hard and has surprises here and there. Sandals are a must unless you're on the beach. Shorts should be worn just in case someone comes along, right?
So, how did the islanders wear so much clothing? Okay, they're used to the heat. But, why so much clothing? Adornment? Status? I saw some of the local guys wearing long-sleeved Tommy Hilfiger sweaters in the middle of the day. Well, they probably laugh hysterically at the standard-issue tourist uniform of tank top, bathing-suit, and sandals dangling a camcorder or camera, too, but I chuckled at their attempt to look hip in this weather.
Must be hot being hip. Well, we suffer for the look, right? Then again, they're not on vacation, are they? I remembered seeing visitors to my hometown of San Francisco wearing shorts and tee-shirts, freezing their asses off. They don't realize that San Francisco is so much like London most of the time, cold and foggy, save for a few great days. How could a visitor know how a local dresses? Who cares? That's what Kalik does to you, makes you feel local, while dressing like you're at home.
The cliffs to my left bore fewer structures now. I kept on my trek, thinking to myself that I would really like to go see Gusty and enjoy one of his gin/Kalik concoctions right now. It was then that I remembered the time my wife and I kinda broke the rules governing golf cart rental and actually went off-road in our vehicle. The road got so rough at one point that there was nothing but trees and bush around us on a narrow, hilly dirt road. I high-centered the thing once. One of Martinez's horses poked his head through the bush and laughed a horsey-grin.
My wife had once regrettably turned down a ride from Martinez when my buddy and I were lost on one of the island's skinny, beach-like paths. We had picked up sandwiches for Beth from Angela's Starfish Restaurant, and were in a hurry to find her. But we were a little Kaliky, so we laughed it off and I pushed as she punched the gas. The golf-cart was freed.
At the end of the road we came upon a great estate of Palm Grove, which Gusty had told us was owned by the sister of the same millionaire that owned the world-champion Florida Marlins. And built Blockbuster. Perhaps he also owned the Miami Dolphins, but remember, we were Kaliky at that point. The bush-chopping Haitians were busy slicing back the brush and burning what they had removed. I saw the smoke rise in the air from the multiple piles and wondered what they'd do if a great wind came and blew the fire out of control. Run to the ocean, no doubt. I now did the same.
Some narrow, silvery fish darted by me and made my skin tighten. Their eyes always looking left and right -- thanks to placement by God -- and swimming in packs of three or four, they saw me and just as quickly disappeared. I headed back for the beach and continued my ankle-high water journey. If I got hungry, I could eat them, right? Make my stand right here, on this beach. Never go home. Just stay and wait for the darts. It might take about thirty of them to make a meal for this 220-pounder, though. And, like Chinese food, I'd probably be hungry soon after. I regretted not having brought a fishing pole for some shore casting. But, then again, my matches would be useless after my multiple sabbaticals in the ocean. I tried hard to remember my one day of Boy Scout training, but on that particular day they had talked more about how to recruit new members than how to light a fire with driftwood and catch darty fish with nothing more than a bad attitude and some sandy rocks.
At one point, I believed it was time to return to the 'mainland', and it was then, more than ever, that I wanted to continue on my trek. But, the sun was turning orange and daring me to beat it to the ocean, so I turned around slowly and faced my return. The way back is always farther than the way there, right? You've already seen it all and are tired from your trip, no? I faced the sun, the ocean, and the sand, and turned back, wondering why I had come so far in the first place.
On the way back, the wind picked up a bit and blew my long hair over to my right side. At home, I hate my hair being blown about. Here, I could care less. I enjoyed being touched by the low-lying clouds that reached out to me. I felt the power of different sources of the world. The wind, the water, and the earth. Even the sun gave me the fourth element as it continued to warm my bare skin. At this time, I couldn't even see my companions. But, it's pretty simple to navigate the land at the edge of an island. Maybe it was this simplicity that allowed me to ponder as I wandered, the shore being my guide.
I suddenly remembered the library on Harbour Island. The faded books. The age of them all. The section on the United States being all of a foot wide, and just out of reach of the school children. Perhaps they could grab a book on my country when they were taller. But I found myself wishing that that particular section were ten feet tall, so that only the really good basketballers from the island could snatch one. America cherishes its athletes and pays them well. Normal people, below seven feet tall or so, need not apply.
I wanted very much to be the unpaid librarian. The one that put the lock on the Cuban cigar box full of donations in cash, the one that made sure the windows were weather-tight, and that the front doors would actually dissuade a would-be thief armed with little more than a butter-knife.
I wanted to guard that sacred library, so full of writing, and knowledge. The place that I had first sat and wondered, "Is this the place where I am to make my mark on the world? Is this where I am called to help?" So full of my own self-want to help. As though this place isn't perfect already.
If I were the island dictator, I would tell the children that some kids could learn to clean conch, others could learn to build buildings, some folks would learn the intricate art of plaiting straw, a few would become expert fishermen, others could become teachers, some would learn to build boats again, some could write books, and still others could learn to sew names like "John" or "Steve" in straw hats that no one would actually ever wear but would pay a premium price for, or best of all · they could learn just how lucky they were to be here in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, if I were in charge, I'd keep Eden just the way it was.
If I were wiser still, I would encourage them to read and learn about the United States as a place that came, saw, and conquered all it could until there was little else but strip-malls and 7-11s in every town across the country. I would tell them what I had learned about the world, and hope to scare them into staying safe, here where God lives. Perhaps that would make them stay here, here in this glorious place.
If I were a realist, I would realize that the reason I donated a computer system to the All-Age School was because I knew that these blessed people were smart enough to reach out and touch the world, and somehow make it better, whatever the risk to all that is immaculate about them and their home.
I realized that the best gift I could possibly give to this enchanted place, its beautiful people, the All-Age School, and Ms. Elodie Ling, the actual librarian at my favorite place, was to leave them alone. Or, better, to be the anonymous visitor on a beautiful beach, on a perfect island, to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. And the occasional gift to those to have unknowingly given so much to my wife and me.
I saw a pink-colored shell in the shape of a cone. Granted, it was a small one, but maybe it could bring a dollar to someone if a tourist wanted to bring it home. Perhaps it could adorn the desk pen and pencil set of some Manhattanite. For that, I left it where it lay, in the clearest water I've ever seen on a beach that defies Crayola, Inc.'s best imagination. Harbour Islanders instinctively know that they own something outsiders may never purchase or franchise or incorporate, and that the magic that they hold, that we visit from time to time, will never disappear. The essence of what God gave these people that they know is theirs, is that they smile at each other, and that they hold each other dear. This glorious people: Briland People.
When I finally got back, my friends and my wife were concerned less about where I had been, but more when I would come home. Home was a long way away. Home wasn't Tingum Village, where we were staying the night. Home wasn't anywhere near Gusty's or Queen Conch. Home wasn't even remotely close to Angela's Starfish Restaurant where you must write down everything you want, like a will to yourself. ["What I will leave myself when I die: a conch salad and a Kalik, oh yeah, don't forget the fritters.] At Angela's, she sits behind a window and gives you a pencil and paper, and asks you what you want. Looking back, I should have asked for another pencil, and some more paper.
Beth -- my beautiful wife, otherwise known around the island as, "Lovely Miss Beth" -- thanked me for introducing her to something I held dear that has become to her "the simplest, easiest place that anyone would ever want to be in. It's hard to explain: it's a place that I tell others about. I've given pink sand to very few people. From that gift, they've understood me a little bit better and wanted to visit this place I described. I wouldn't pass pink sand to just anyone, you know? Sure you do. A lot of times, I feel I can take them there, because I'm there everyday."
You see, I had been to Nassau and down the Eleutheran chain a few times before, but when we got married, I wanted to take her to the Briland side of The Bahamas. She trusted me. She has not questioned my vision since. [Yeah, right.]
Love and peace to all.
Beth and Jim Reno
Friends of The Bahamas
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