I consider myself a lucky man. Not because I have achieved great fortune or risen to the pinnacle of my profession. Not because I have done great things or played a part in world shaping events. I am a lucky man because of the people I have met over my lifetime, people that have helped me see that life can always be more.
Below is a description of the events of my life over the early part of February 2017. For those of you that have read previous posts you will know the characters of whom I speak. To those characters, you know who you are and I apologize if I get the story scrambled a wee bit, it is part literary license and part too many cerveza’s. If you wish to comment please do and if there is something that pisses you off… you have my personal contact information. Otherwise I hope you approve and consent to my use of your character. This is very long so I will delay no more.
The Siege at Los Gringos
Honey and I have spent the last two weeks camped out in a cabana on the Playa Magante. It is a beautiful stretch of beach that on some days is pristine and on others when the ocean has coughed up everything it has to offer, looks like a farm field after the wheat has been cut down. Mounds of seaweed stretch its entire length giving it a rather nasty look. Experience has taught me that what the ocean spews up it will reclaim and the beach will be pristine once again. Time seems to take care of everything.
We started our stay there with less than agreeable weather, cloud and a few days of rain, otherwise all appeared normal. Ginger, The Earl, Honey and I spent those first few days drinking cerveza’s and rum punch’s catching up on the events of our lives over the past two years since we had last been together. Near the end of the first week our host at the Playa de los Piritas, Captain Ahole, asked to meet with The Earl and Ginger to discuss his current business predicament. From that point forward the seige at Los Gringos had begun.
Since going into any real detail is nobody’s business but the owners of the property (The Earl and Ginger) and the leasee (Captain Ahole), I will simply say that a proposal was made by Ahole that the owners sell the property at a substancial loss to a group of investor’s that Captain Ahole would find for them. “A business here cannot be profitable,” he told The Earl and Ginger. It might be if Ahole didn’t ignore his customers and let glasses go empty, but what do I know. The answer to the the first shot fired was “No, this beach is not for sale.”
The next morning I arose to find that all internet service to the cabanas had been cut. This lasted for the next two days. Tensions were rising, the French Captain was nowhere to be found and the Dominican staff did not know why there was no wifi and had no idea how to fix it. Ahole’s response to the British’s rejection was annoying but the sun had come out and the beach was calling our name, so Honey and I just ignored it all and got a tan. On the second day of no internet, Ginger and The Earl had prepared their response to the captain’s actions and this required Ahole to appear before their lawyer. It appeared that the Captain had been in breach of his contract for some time and he was being called forth to answer to this. Should have left the wifi on and filled our glasses Ahole!
Lawyer’s are a necessary evil when it comes to matters of the law but even if they are your lawyers they can be nasty individuals. But when you need some heavy artillery there is no one better. The morning after that meeting the internet advertised on the Piritas website, was once again available. Hmmm, I guess it didn’t go so well for the Captain. Ginger informed me that there was to be a second meeting a week later to determine the fate of Playa de los Piritas. Should have thought twice before firing the first shot Ahole!
The service at the Playa had gone from bad to non-existent. Tension’s had mounted and both sides had dug themselves in. There was some communication but language was an issue and even though Ginger’s SpEnglish was sufficent for idol chatter and ordering food and drink, it was not strong enough to deal with a negotiation such as this. It was during this period that Rock, Stream and Stream’s father, Head Waters, arrived on the island. Honey and I took the oppurtunity to spend some time with them in Caberete. Giving ourselves a chance to visit our friends away from the mounting drama.
There had always been a plan to bring the trio out to Magante for a day of sun, sand and drinking. I wanted Rock and Stream to meet Ginger and The Earl, since all of them had been part of these posts for many years. It seemed only fitting that they were given a chance to make fun of me and all I have written. I believe that if you’re going to give it, you need to be able to take it, so fair was fair. The situation though had changed and now we needed Rock’s superior Spanish skills to help communicate with numerous parties in the ever unfolding drama. There needed to be no more misunderstandings.
Not wanting to put Rock into a situation that he was uncomfortable with, he was given numerous opportunities to bail. “You don’t have to do it if you’d rather not”, I had said to him repeatedly. Even Ginger had told me to be sure that he didn’t mind, after all this was not his battle. But Rock would have none of that, “Absolutely, no problem at all. I don’t mind,” he said to me, “it’s what friends do.” Yes it is and this is why I am a lucky man to have made friends like this. I think you’re in trouble now Ahole!
Plans were made that were rather fluid as there was still another meeting with the lawyer to be had and depending on those results Rock’s skills would be needed afterwards. Stream stepped in at this point and said she would need to check their schedule. “Hmm let’s see,” she said to me with twinkle in her eye and a smile on her lips, “breakfast… beach… yes I think we will be available all week.” Head Waters took all this in with that same twinkle and smile, obviously she was her father’s daughter.
The Monday meeting with the lawyer between Ginger, The Earl and Captain Ahole did not go well. The lawyer being a lawyer laid down an ultimatium to the Captain that was not in his favour and he was given until that Thursday to make a decision.
The next morning when I arose and sat on the deck no one came out of the darkness. Carmelo had been sent home in the night and Ahole manned the deck… there would be no coffee that morning without me asking for it. Now he’s making it personal. As a further show of strength the Captain brought in only one staff that day and closed the restaurant early before we had a chance to eat dinner. Had that one employee not been loyal to Ginger and The Earl and informed them of the Captain’s plan we would have been caught unaware. A confrontation in front of The Earl’s friends was what he had hoped for but it was not to be. We left the compound without giving the restaurant a glance, where he sat in the darkness, and went to Rio San Juan for dinner. Forgot I had a car didn’t you Ahole!
Learning of the employees treachery she was admonished by the Captain and hasn’t been back since. Well that’s not quite true but that will come later. This was the last straw for Honey and I, aside for a few libations and our free breakfast, we did not spend another peso in his restaurant. You see there are other places that you can get a meal on the playa and we made it a point to eat at those instead.
Honey and I had tried to stay out of the line of fire and had Captain Ahole not included us in this siege we might have pretended to be neutral. Yes, Ginger and The Earl were our friends and we were firmly planted in their corner and to the Captain that was obvious, but he had made no attempt to make nice to us. You would think that garnering favour with us might have helped improve his position with Ginger and The Earl (it wouldn’t have) but his arrogance made him believe that he would be victoriuos without it. In fact in the two weeks we had been at the Playa de los Paritas the good Captain had never bothered to introduce himself. You think that should have happened on day one!
On the Wednesday prior to the impending meeting, Honey and I went into Caberete and spent the day with Rock, Stream and Head Waters. We sat on the beach and watched the kite surfers. Head Waters commented that they resembled a carnival. It is one of the charms of Caberete beach and it is entertaining just to watch them circle all around the bay. Having that sort of break-away was very therapeutic for both Honey and I. Honey was starting to feel the pressure from the ongoing siege and Rock and Stream being the people that they are allowed us to vent off some of our tensions, in the same way that we preformed that service for Ginger and the Earl. Friends helping friends by simply being friends. Damn I’m a lucky man!
Both Honey and I left Caberete that day feeling re-energized and ready to get back into the conflict. We drove out during the early evening hours before the sun had disappeared. On an earlier visit we had stayed with Rock and Stream well past sunset and I had been forced to make the trek back to the Playa Magante in darkness. To enhance my discomfort Mother Nature being,… well… Mother Nature, thought a little rain might add some excitement to the journey. I have described my feelings about driving in the DR before, and I should go back and change that post saying it describes daylight driving only, because ‘Driving Dominican’ at night is something all together different.
If you took a skipping rope and laid it on the ground, then gave it a flick at one end, the rope would take on the look of a snake with twists and turns down its length. This would be the best way to describe the road from Caberete to the Playa Magante in daylight. I have made that journey at least half a dozen times before but I’m sure that night as soon as the sun set, someone gave that rope another little flick and changed it! I’m driving down the same road that I drove in on except it is dark. Forget about street lights, there aren’t any unless your town has more than six houses! Trees overgrow it, blotting out any light I might have hoped to get from the moon if it weren’t raining, and I swear they added turns!!! They may have even added a couple four house towns (no light required) for good measure!!!
The wet road reflected the oncoming traffics head lights creating glare that was magnified by the Dominican’s vehicles that only use only high beams because at least one of their low beams is burnt out! The effect was blinding. Honey, as my co-pilot kept a running advisory of conditions on the roadsides ahead, keeping me apprised of things that might come at me from the curb. “Chicken! Chicken! Chicken! DOG!!!” she’d call out to me as we drove along in the darkness. The forty-minute daylight drive took an hour in the dark. It was nerve-racking and from that point on I left Caberete in daylight.
For us Thursday was a quiet day, Ginger and The Earl left the playa shortly after noon and a short while later the Captain too was gone. I had figured out over the last week that the night guards, Carmelo and his replacement on his days off, were waking the Captain at six in the morning when they opened the front gate on the road, then leaving when he came over to the restaurant. If I was up before that, they would still bring my coffee to me on my cabana deck, so I would not have to go in begging for some. They knew more about customer service than Ahole. This also worked for me since the Captain made the world’s worse coffee, it was always weak like he kept using the same grounds repeatedly.
The Earl and Ginger were the first to arrive back at the Playa Magante. They had still not reached a final solution to the situation because the Captain was holding out. Claiming he was due a substantial amount of money for his investment in the business, that he was being forced to leave behind. The lawyer being… well… a lawyer had taken the list that Ahole had supplied of his investments and slashed it from a claimed total of $50k down to $8k. Ginger informed us there had been much yelling, screaming and name calling (mostly at the lawyer) but time ran out before a binding agreement could be reached. I could see that the whole thing was wearing Ginger out and with only three days remaining until their departure the Captain had destroyed what she had hoped would be a nice relaxing holiday. The Earl for his part was just angry, since he speaks no Spanish (I believe he understands more than he lets on), he was forced to endure hours of listening to unintelligible arguing and whining (that was the Captain) and since there was still no final solution, he was pissed.
The Earl is a man of many dimensions. He has this gruff British exterior and likes to smoke a pipe when he goes for a walk. He will tell you the best way to do almost anything including how to make the best fried egg even though I doubt he has ever actually cooked one. But he does have a good sense of humour, it can be dry in the British sort of way you might expect, and he can give as good as he gets. We wouldn’t be friends if he couldn’t, because I have been poking fun at him for six years now and we’re still on speaking terms. I also witnessed a completely different Earl when he received a face chat phone call from his eldest daughter on his birthday, the gruff exterior evaporated and he became a mushy ol’ teddy bear. He and Ginger have two daughters and after that call I’m quite certain they both own dear ol’ dad. OMG!!! The man blew kisses at the phone!!
On Friday I got up once again in the darkness and coffee arrived as if from mid-air. A short while later Ginger too got up before sunrise and ventured on to her deck. The light on Ginger’s deck is left on overnight, Ginger tells me this is so the room gets just enough light for The Earl to see the door to the loo, “so as not to stub one of the toes on those gargantuan feet of his.” In all fairness Earl, they really aren’t that big but Ginger knows how to turn a phrase. The guards see her and bring both tea and coffee. The Earl likes tea before coffee in the morning.
We both sit quietly waiting for the sun to rise on a new day. Ginger and I never speak first thing in the morning. It has been our way since I first came to Los Gringos and Ginger commented that I was the first guest to beat her out of bed in the morning. I understood then that I had encountered a kindred spirit, someone too that finds a moment of bliss in the solitude of the dawning day. Watching the sky lighten and expose the beauty of the oceans gentle waves as they lap the shoreline, seeing the silhouette of a fisherman making his way down the beach to his boat, the palm trees, the sand and the look of the thatched roofs of the cabanas against this vista. I believe that we both shared a need for that moment and out of respect for each other we rarely even acknowledge one another’s presence.
That morning was different though, as the day lightened I noticed Ginger leave her seat on the cabana. I had been writing and paying no attention to my surroundings. I looked out towards the ocean and there before me on the beach stood four horses (pictured). Okay I’m not a superstitious guy but come on, this had omen written all over it. Today was going to be a day of reckoning, I could feel it. I had no way of knowing how it would all play out but I could sense then that by the end of the day life at the Playa Magante would change. Best be worrying about the four riders that came in on those horses Ahole!
Friday was the day when I was due to bring my friends together. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a touch nervous having total strangers meet with their only common link being me. What if they didn’t like each other? I knew they would be polite but what would I do in those uncomfortable silences? To add to this was a wild card, Head Waters. I had only shared a few afternoons with him and he seemed like a decent guy but he still represented an unknown entity. The whole thing could be an absolute train wreck! As I drove to Caberete to pick the trio up, my nerves had me feeling like I was setting up a blind date and I was the chaperone.
This was to be the only driving I would be doing this day compliments of Ginger and The Earl, who had arranged for local cabs to provide all future transportation for everyone the rest of the day, so I too could drink. My worries were immediately abated upon our arrival as Ginger and The Earl met us on the sand in front of their cabana where they were sitting with Honey and introduced themselves immediately. There were smiles and laughter as I quickly set up seating for everyone using the chairs and table from the third vacant cabana. I then took everyone’s order for drinks and kept their glasses full the rest of the day. Sure it was easy since I was using someone else’s tab but at no time was anyone without liquid refreshment. Take note Ahole, this is how you make money in the hospitality industry.
After the first round of drinks were finished and I had made my trip to reload, Ginger, The Earl and Rock excused themselves and went into meet with the Captain. The rest of us just kept drinking while the meeting took place. Rock had sat with The Earl and Ginger prior to departure to discuss the situation and his role in it as interpreter/negotiator. I know that this is not Rock’s profession but when I heard the types of question’s he was asking my friends, I think he missed his calling.
His mind is logical but all encompassing. He sees the situation from every direction. “What if he responds ‘blah, blah’ when I tell him ‘blah, blah’ he would ask, making sure he understood what the landlords position would be. Rock has told me there are many ways to say something in Spanish and he was making sure that he delivered the right ones to the Captain. He was taking an active role in the siege and he was taking it seriously.
It was common consensus that the dramatics at the lawyer’s office the day before had been a stalling tactic to get a larger settlement from The Earl by running him out of time on the island. Only three days remained in their visit and if no agreement could be reached with Ahole by then they would have to leave him at Los Gringos without supervision. Allowing him to possibly pillage the site as witnessed up the playa at the resort formerly known as the Coco Cabanas (see pictures). I didn’t think even the Captain would go that far, but after witnessing what had happened to the apartment behind the restaurant after the death of Patrick by his girlfriend’s family, I knew that some concern was warranted.
The two principles and their interpreter returned an hour later. I had already made a trip to the bar for another round (I had to keep close eye on Head Water’s glass, it went empty quickly)and had seen them all huddled around a far table conversing to each other while Rock did the translations. We all questioned what had happened and were informed that the first round was over and they had all agreed to take a break while each side digested what had been said. They would return to the table in a short while to continue. I went back for another round of refreshments. The Captain and his crew stood watching our merry group from the deck of the restaurant, no doubt trying to assess what would come next. His crew included a Dominican couple who had stayed loyal to him as they had gained the most since Ahole had taken command. She was the only employee to had received work in the last three days. She had worked at Los Gringos for Patrick so I knew her and understood that she too had stake in these proceedings. I had empathy for her.
Our group took a stroll down the beach as the afternoon faded. Rock and The Earl talked strategy while Ginger strolled with Stream, Honey and Head Waters all talking and laughing. I was watching, my friends become friends, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. As I walked behind them I could hear Stream commenting on how beautiful her surroundings were, even though the ocean had coughed up the night before and they were picking their way through the seaweed and debris. It made me smile, that’s Stream, she is a young woman who has seen a lot of life and still manages to see its beauty first. These were all very good people.
One more round of libations and Rock and Ginger returned to the restaurant. The Earl stayed behind, this had become a money negotiation now and it was his money they were talking about, I think he was having difficulty keeping his anger in check. Ginger was the more conciliatory of the couple and The Earl was comfortable that Rock could convey his position, so It was better for the negotiations if he stayed behind. Less than 30 minutes later they returned. Ginger wore a broad smile, “We have an agreement.”
The Siege at Los Gringos’ was over. Captain Ahole would be setting sail on March 15th, taking the Playa de los Piratas name with him, along with his mannequins and his faux pirate decorations. Yo Ho Ho, Ahole!!
Okay I can hear Stream screaming right about now… “WTF?!!! What about the rest?!!!”
Yes there is a rest but that will be a different story. That is the story of the woman whom I mentioned earlier, the one that informed Ginger and The Earl of the unexpected restaurant closing and had not been working since, the one I said we would get back to later… Her name is Wendy and I once described her as the Dominican soul of Los Gringos.