“I said to him, ‘Just so you understand’, and I looked him straight in the eye.” Rock does the universal sign language for ‘I’m watching you’ as he recounts the final showdown with the Captain. “’This is their final offer, you have until Sunday to accept it or it is off the table, and it will be back to the lawyer’s number.’ He said yes right away!” Rocks laughs, even The Earl is smiling. “So I looked him in the eye again and said,” more peace signs to the eyeballs, “Just so we’re clear, you are accepting this offer from…” We all laugh when he finishes the tale for the third time, each with a slight variation because he remembered something new. Rock is jazzed up from the conflict and the victory. Ginger is laughing too and looking relieved that this chapter of her playa is coming to a close. This is where I last left you at the end of ‘The Siege at Los Gringos’, but we need to back up before we can move forward.
The siege had taken eleven days from beginning to end. From day one Honey, Ginger, The Earl and I had been discussing the ever changing situation. It was all agreed that the Captain was going but when and how was up for grabs. He had a five-year contract with four years still remaining and there were clauses and exceptions and only a lawyer knows what else! So you see the whole thing was quite fluid at the beginning.
We discussed many ‘what if’ plans. What if he stays another year? What if he wants six months? What if he trashes the place? What if…? Many potential scenarios floated around during the early days of the siege including “What if you stayed here and ran the place?” The Earl had joked to me. I knew he had read a post on my former blog about wanting to do exactly that but not being able to cook, so I laughed the suggestion off. But alarms had sounded waking me up to the potential opportunity of somehow being involved in keeping the business on the Playa Magante alive. I was interested.
I may not be the sharpest pencil in the box but I do understand that when it comes to the future it’s always just around the corner but the present is with me now. Honey and I spent many hours talking about our future those first few days of the siege. There was nothing we could do in the immediate, reality was we were not ready yet but we could help our friends keep their business alive without volunteering to stay. As a group we discussed the options for the former Los Gringos, closing it again was the least desirable, just below ‘find another tenant’.
To be fair to my ego, I had very little to do with the final plan. Ginger and The Earl had been thinking about what to do ‘if’ the Captain abandoned ship far longer than Honey and I had been. They already had at least the framework of a contingency plan, they’d probably been thinking of it since the first day they signed the contract with French Captain. I simply threw a few ideas out there for consideration, most were discarded and rightfully so (there really wasn’t any room for a helipad). But by the end of the first week, we as a group had a working plan. Of course the plan required local co-operation and the agreement to participate, by the one person the plan would not work without, that person was Wendy.
I have written of Wendy before, she worked for Patrick. She was his go-to-girl at the restaurant and to me represented the’ island soul’ that Los Gringos advertised. She lives with her husband and 3 children in a town a short walk from the playa. Her neighbours are Carmelo, Nero, Francesca and Sandy, well Sandy technically lives with Wendy and Jonny (his brother) but you get my point, these are the same people that had inhabited Los Gringos since I first arrived. It explains why the place always had the feeling of community about it. A feeling the playa had lost.
It was decided that Ginger needed to talk to Wendy and see if she would be interested in taking over managing the ‘formerly known as…’ and being Ginger and The Earl’s person on the ground, thus allowing the business to remain open. Since Wendy had not been seen since she disclosed to Ginger the impending early restaurant closure, we all took a walk to her home. We were invited to stay but Honey and I took our leave at her door and returned to the playa with the dogs. Our involvement at this stage would serve no purpose.
Upon their return Ginger informed us that Wendy was definitely interested in being part of the contingency plan. This was good news, now at least whatever happened in regards to the Captain, Ginger and The Earl had something in their back pocket. Ginger asked me to see if Rock would “mind terribly” working as a translator between Wendy and the Brits. She wanted to be sure that Wendy understood what they were asking her to do if a transition took place. This was the original request made by me to Rock. Made prior to the impasse the following Thursday that facilitated the need for him to play the role of interpreter/negotiator. I kind of blindsided the guy with that one Friday morning when I picked them up. Lo siento amigo. But like I’ve said before, you missed your calling.
So there we all sat, me, Honey, Ginger, The Earl, Rock, Stream and Head Waters, laughing at the stories, a sense of relief washing over us. We heard the sound of the car horn, announcing the arrival of Berto, our transportation for the rest of the evening. Our camp was quickly broken up; chairs and tables were returned to the decks of the other cabanas and I made one last trip to the restaurant with an arm full of empties. I smiled at the Captain and his crew and deposited my returns on the bar, “Gracias” I said and left still smiling.
We piled into Berto’s van and made our way to Rio San Juan and a restaurant by the Laguana Gri Gri. Berto left us there and returned to Magante to pick up the rest of our party, Berto was going to be busy tonight. Ginger asked the restaurant staff if we could rearrange the seating because there were more people coming, ten more to be exact bringing the total of this party to seventeen. “Si” we were told and with that I started to move chairs. “No senor, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” the waitress said to me in Spanish. I looked at Rock with that stupid look that I have and he said “She said that they will do it, we don’t need to help.” What’s that??? Customer service!! It gave me a tingly feeling to see that ignoring the customer was strictly a thing at our playa and had not spread throughout the island.
By the time our second round of drinks had arrived so had Berto with the rest of our group. Joining us were Wendy, Jonny, their 3 children (two teenage daughters and a 2yr- old son), Sandy, Nero and her grandson, Berto and his son, who spent the entire evening shadowing Wendy’s daughter, it’s what teenage boys do in every country I guess. We sat and drank and ate pizza, the vibe at the table was incredible. Rock and Ginger sat in the middle of the table since they could speak both languages and to an outsider the seating arrangement may have looked segregated, but to those of us there it was not. We were a happy group.
The Earl sat at the head of the table, I have no idea how much he had consumed during the day but at this point he was showing the effects. He had become a touch louder and was laughing at just about everything. I could see that his mushy interior was oozing out all over his gruff exterior. This impression was validated when he inexplicably raised his glass and in a loud voice said, “To the Commonwealth”. I looked at him, his cheeks were red just above his grey mustache and he was grinning from ear to ear. I could see that at that moment The Earl was truly a happy man. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was Dominica and not the Dominican Republic that was part of the commonwealth, I simply laughed along with the rest of the table at his toast, and even though more than half of the group had no idea what he had just said, they all raised their glasses and drank.
Later our party would move from the pizzeria to the ice cream parlour (which luckily in the DR also serves beer). Rock, Ginger and Wendy went off where they discussed the things that would transpire on the playa now that we knew when the Captain was leaving. The contingency plan was never to just drop Wendy into a new business and tell her to sink or swim. The contingency plan came with a support structure, of which I am happy to say Honey and I are a part of. Rock was there to be sure that things were clear between all parties concerned; Ginger didn’t trust her ‘SpEnglish’ enough and having an interpreter gave her reassurance. She didn’t want to mistakenly make Wendy think the wrong thing by using the wrong Spanish word.
The two young children (2&3) ran about the ‘Café Paris’ with balloons left over from Valentine’s Day, laughing and screaming as they played. Berto sat at the back of the room nursing a pop. He had brought in re-enforcements in the way of another cab. This group was a bit too large for him to handle alone, Rock, Stream and Head Waters would need to get back to Caberete more than an hours’ drive away, the wait time for the other’s would be too long; smart business guy . Berto’s teenage son was faithfully sticking close to Wendy’ youngest daughter (both 13ish)… she’d move, he’d move… she sat, he sat next to her… she’d move again… you get the point. This went on the whole time we sat at the café. They never spoke to each other; both kept their eyes glued to their cell phones. Bit of advice dude; If you like her it’s helpful if you speak words out loud to her!!
The Earl sat across from me at a small table, Honey, Head Waters and Stream sat to my right on a bench. The young boys ran up and down the aisle to my left chasing their balloons. Above the Earl’s head was a television, it was tuned to a sports station that was running banner headlines in English, one caught my eye at about the same time I heard The Earl say “You’re not even listening to me… You’re watching the teley!” I looked at The Earl and I no doubt blushed, caught red-handed. I had had a lot to drink and Damn Man… I hadn’t been this close to a television in 2 weeks!!! There’s no such luxury for the guests at the pirate playa. I raised my glass and said “To the Commonwealth!!” I laughed… he laughed… we drank to the commonwealth. The whole café was buzzing with happy chatter when Ginger, Rock and Wendy rejoined the group and seamlessly blended into the ongoing conversations around them.
This is what Los Gringos had always been. A melting pot of people from around the globe, all together at one table. I once believed that this was solely because of the multi-linguist Patrick and the kind of guy he was, but now I could see that Los Gringos was all of these people, and who they all were. Los Gringos had not been just one person; it had been a combination of all these people. You don’t have to speak the language to understand a smile and appreciate the laughter of children.
The events of the day had changed the lives of the people that were assembled, some more than others. Even having been just a mere witness, I too had been impacted by what had transpired. I am truly happy that my friends from England, Ginger and The Earl, had managed to rid themselves of a bad situation and that Wendy would be taking charge at the Playa Magante. I believe that although there will be many challenges ahead at the playa, The Earl and Ginger have made a wise choice. I believe they have chosen the right person to breathe life back into the Playa Magante and the ‘business formerly known as…’