Friday, January 05, 2007

Bahamas, reflecting

Bahamas: So close to Cuba! So many islands! So like Bermuda in its flora, pastels, shutters and stepped roofs but warmer and without Bloomberg. How insanely large the cruise ships, and seedy the shops on hand to serve the passengers spewed ashore.

No matter R's excellent preparations - the maps and articles put before me in anticipation of our new years in the Bahamas - I landed in Nassau pathetically informed.

(I'm vacation-lazy; beaches smother my cultural instincts.. I may deserve Cancuns and senor frogs...)

Since our hotel was on the main island of Nassau rather than cloistered on the trippy confection of Paradise Island and its Atlantis or pristinely precious Harbour Island (a Caribbean Nantucket), we were ostensibley in contact with the island's life.

That our little cabin-room at Compass Point had a kitchenette spurred us to grocery shop, to buy rum and beers at the local liquor store, hitch a ride with a British resident, and thus step-just into the rhythm of a Bahamian day.

We spent new year's eve amidst the bacchanalian grandeur of Graycliff Hotel - a Maugham-ish villa perched behind Nassau proper. We dined on 8 courses of decadence: foie gras gave way to kobe beef, dense bison steaks, cream-smothered tortellini and a desert of chocolate a-sea in more chocolate.

Between courses we walked the hotel's jungled gardens that, like the mansion itself, teeterd on the edge of seediness, wantoness - the lady flamboyant in dress and manner a whiskey-sour from embarrassing herself and the party. As if the garden, left to its own, would grow right back through the mansion to twine its bannisters and reclaim balconies and so revert Graycliffe to some Garcia Marquez set for a senile colonel.

The night was punctuated with entertainments - a fire-eater/dancer in the living room and a feathered troup – the Junkanoo Parade - that lead us to the roof for fireworks. We gawking guests were their warm-up; the Junkanoo players joined the main event of Nassau town's parade when their exhibition for us was done. Their performace surged through the hotel's halls, just barely sanitized for the our gawking, digital-cameras-aloft consumption.

Obligingly, un-ironically, the dancers linked us party-dressed tourists to the actual Bahamas until the time came for the real party of the parade to begin. And when the tourists were nestled snug in our hotel beds, the Bahamas would, for the night, be reclaimed for Bahamians.

Thinking about it now, I suppose this is what "cultural performances" are made of but the proximity of the 2 performaces, and that the players celebrated in a sense, for us - so that we might have an exuberant New years - were something new.

C - nearly done with Bahama postings as the tan fades out

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