There is a tradition here at the Playa. It is not my tradition per se, but one I wholly embrace and was started long ago by Ginger and The Earl. It has been dubbed with much affection as Pizza and Tequila night. For one night we close the restaurant down and take the entire staff with the exception of one night-watchman out to Rio San Juan for a night of pizza, drinks and dancing. It is a way of thanking them all for their efforts here at the Playa.
All the employees are invited including their families and this year our total was 19 bodies. It requires two taxis and more than one trip to shuttle the group back and forth. I think this is the largest group we have ever had for our festive night. That is reflective of the increase in business that the Playa is enjoying. It also is reflective of the camaraderie that has developed under Wendy’s leadership. Without the interference of the foreigner’s mentality, the Playa has become, at least from my perspective, more of a reflection of the community in which is situated.
This year pizza and tequila night started on my cabana deck. Ginger, The Earl, Rock, Stream, Honey and I sat sipping cervaza’s waiting for the staff to arrive back at the Playa for our 7:30 departure. 7:30 came and went with only a few of the men getting here on time. The reason being, even though Dominican men can throw on a nice shirt and go, no Dominican woman is going for a night out without the appropriate amount of cosmetic application and hair manipulation being done. Just like North America we waited for the women to be ready. We had all finally arrived in Rio by 8:30.
The restaurants in Rio are not large in general and the pizza establishment that we frequent is even smaller than most but when a group of 19 arrive at their door, tables are re-arranged and space is created. No one in their right mind is going to turn down a group our size, they would have put tables in the street if needed. It took 5 tables strung in a row to accommodate us all but in the end we all fit. Beer arrived, then pizza, then more beer and more pizza and shots of tequila and more pizza, then more beer. This went on for almost two hours at a very rapid pace.
After a cervaza or two, Rock raised a glass and made a toast. He did this in Spanish of course so I have no idea what he said but all our friends around the table smiled, raised their glasses and shouted “Salute”. This was followed by Rock making a second toast, then a third, all of which I could not understand. I tapped glasses with The Earl, “to the Commonwealth,” I said to him. It’s an inside joke and we both laughed.
The restaurant had two levels, the upper deck had 4 tables where other patrons sat. There was only one server for the whole place and the girl never stopped moving! She was awesome!! No glass went empty and as soon as one pie was shared around the table the empty tray was removed and a new pizza was placed in front of the group. In my eyes, this young woman was a talent and if I had a restaurant in Rio San Juan, I would be trying to hire her away from her current employer. She handled our 5 tables and the four above us with speed and efficiency that I rarely see at home let alone on the island. I’m not saying that servers here and back home do not do their jobs but that this young woman did hers better than most. She was a machine!
With the bill settled and a suitably large tip placed in the girl’s hand, we all exited the restaurant and headed up the street to the disco. That’s right, they still call it a disco! The music blasted onto the street and was even louder within. Now our tables were populated with more beer and shots upon shots of tequila. You didn’t think the night got its name from one round of tequila shots, did you? Rock, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, knows how to dance and even likes to dance! The more beer and tequila we poured into him, the more he wanted to dance. When he had exhausted all the woman in our group, he even decided to dance with the drunk guy that had been stumbling about the bar. Rock didn’t care and later he told me that the guy was “a pretty good dancer”. The next day he paid the price, not only with a head that had decapacitated his motor skills, but with the good-natured ribbing he took from all that were there to witness his John Travolta-esque moves on the dance floor.
This is the essence of every pizza and tequila night I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. It is a night when the people, whom I usually only see when they are hard at work, to have a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Be relaxed and enjoy a night of friendship and laughter, with each other and us foreigners. Do they enjoy this annual event? I cannot say for sure, but since the only person not there was the guard we left behind (we did bring him back a pizza) and this not a work function where attendance is mandatory, I would say yes. It is a simple thing to take this group for a social experience, and it allows Ginger and The Earl and now Honey and I, a way of thanking them for the work they have done and continue to do, making The Playa a successful business.
The next morning as I sat moaning on my cabana deck at the stupidity of my over-indulgence, there many of my co-revelers were at 7am ready to start another day of serving others. Pizza and tequila night over for another year, they settled back into to the routine that makes it possible. For my part, I feel fortunate that they would allow me to be part of this festivity and for at least one night I become an Amigo Gringo and am treated as a friend, rather than a guest.
To the Playa Paraiso en Magante, where everyone knows my name… they just can’t pronounce it. Salute!!