Those going on this day trip from Santo Domingo to Sanoa Island start at the Pizzerelli Pizza Palace at six forty five in the morning.
There is no one on the street this morning when I walk to our assigned pick up point, but, at the pizza place, there are five of us who are met by Isidro of Colonial Tours. We follow him down stone steps, out of the Colonial Zone, where we load onto our tour bus transport. Picking up more passengers in Boca Chica, along the way, we are full by the time we all get to Bayimbe where we board several small boats and a catamaran and putt putt out to Sanoa Beach, our destination.
Bayimbe is a cute little town being discovered and developed by foreigners and Sanoa Beach is clean and secure for all travelers even if locals walk the beach selling their jewelry and local crafts that you have already been showed a hundred times.
On our sail back to the mainland at the end of the day, where we re- board our tour bus and return to Santo Domingo, there is dancing on our catamaran, too much booze, but very happy passengers.
It is dark when we all get home, a twelve hour trip for sixty five bucks, a value when you add all the pieces.
I never see these beaches without wondering about sailors marooned, Robinson Crusoe, pirate treasure buried by the foot of palm trees marked by an X on a yellowed map hidden deep in an old chest that has been in storms around Cape Horn.
A trip to the Dominican Republic isn’t complete without getting sand between my toes.
After each trip, new moments join old moments in one big expanding jigsaw puzzle.
Today’s moments can stand on their own, but, they seem to pick up depth and velocity when they hold hands with older ones.
There is controversy whether this is a lighthouse and whether Columbus’s bones are really inside the not so small ornate iron box in the center of this ornate display.
Columbus found the Dominican Republic on the first of his four voyages to the New World. Interestingly enough, he never set foot on America’s soil but set up his family comfortably in Santo Domingo to give them a good life and claim to lands he discovered for the King of Spain.
He was a visionary, as well as a businessman, and having audience with Kings and Queens is no easy task because, being important people, their time is worth more than ours. Mounting an expedition that was going to the ends of the world was a dangerous enterprise.
The big things I learn today are that, when walking, things you see are much further to get to than they look. Whenever you get lost, call a taxi and pay a few bucks to get where you want to go so you don’t spend your entire trip walking in circles.
It seems odd to celebrate a man who discovered America,but didn’t, and odd I’m standing here taking a photo of what we are told is the explorer’s mortal remains?
He and his beloved Santa Maria , right now, are most likely somewhere north, northeast of Mars navigating under celestial lights on dark dark seas with only a compass, telescope and good instincts to guide him and his crew..
He, I’m sure, is doing in the next world what he did in this one.
His bones might be here, but he doesn’t need them for his new discoveries.
If I were on this tour bus I wouldn’t have been able to take this picture.
There are a myriad of ways to transport yourself on a vacation. This tour bus, as it goes by, shows faces inside glancing at me as the tour driver describes thIs area with a microphone in his hand. Inside a tour bus you can’t stop a moment, poke around, talk to someone, have a bite to eat, try to understand a sign in a foreign language. You are moving quickly and if you are thinking about your security system back home you miss a Presidential Palace, or the church where Columbus attended his son’s wedding, or a great cafe where locals eat.
The tour bus passes me and I can hear the driver talking to the whole block on his microphone, his facts sounding garbled and out of sync as the vehicle bumps past me.
His words sound, to me, like the clouds in your coffee.
They wouldn’t be the words I would use to tell about this place.
In airports we are moving to someplace new or returning to someplace familiar. We are waiting interminable hours then squeezing into airplanes that take us 35,000 feet above the Earth and show us movies. We are victims of delays, layovers, plane cancellations, Customs, paperwork, pat downs, x rays and questions. For some, these indignities are acceptable. For others, they are barely tolerable.
This trip, authorities with TSA, in Newerk, confiscate a small bottle of flavored rum that Scott is taking home to enjoy, legally bought at the Museo of Rum in Santo Domingo. The size of the bottle, according to the TSA limit, is “over the limit. ” The agent says ” leave it, or consume it now. ” Figuring they will give me a ticket for flying drunk next, I give up,leave the rum,and board my plane.
Are we to a point in this USA that this micromanagement is necessary, or even healthy?
Governments are, according to more than just me, too big for their britches.
This trip is over, and, I hope, another quickly follows.
Even without my rum, which TSA agents have already enjoyed, staying healthy and traveling is my Doctor’s best prescription.
Next time, I will drink the whole bottle before I get to the airport.
Most smoking in America has been banned from public buildings. All tobacco packaging has to contain scientific warnings that tobacco products are not good for your health. Tobacco is taxed at an exorbitant rate. Television advertising of tobacco products has been curtailed drastically. Multi-million dollar lawsuits have awarded money to smoking victims in large class action health related lawsuits. Doctors advise all their clients to quit. Smoking in movies and on television by actors and actresses has trickled to a few puffs each season.
Camel cigarettes are one of the last surviving brands from the 1950’s.
As kids, we thought it funny to see the Camels on cigarette packs and wondered who would smoke them instead of Philip Morris, Lucky Strikes or Marlboro’s. The fifties were a smoking heyday with millions of vets acquiring the habit in the war and continuing when they got home. Our Dad smoked but quit by eating tons of lifesavers he kept high up on a closet shelf where we kids couldn’t reach them. The Camels always made us think of the French Foreign Legion, men wearing funny hats fighting other men wearing funny hats.
In this Santo Domingo airport, on my way home, I meet a plastic Camel lounging in a smoking room. It is cool and quiet here and there are only a few people in the lounge this morning, a cleaning woman and one smoking man puffing intently on his Camel cigarette, his smoke making clouds in this smoking room thick enough for the rest of us to walk on.
Camels might truly be cool, but I hear, from people who have lived with them, that they are nasty, have body order, and spit at people they don’t like.
Advertising always gets us to ignore product negatives and buy what they want to make us think makes us more important and sophisticated.
I’m in this smoking room, hanging with a camel, and I don’t even smoke.
Sometimes you just don’t know what you are missing till you try something else.
Pat has been persistently trying to move Scott to a DSLR for several years. ” I Phone cameras are good for what they are, ” he has always maintained, ” but cell phones make telephone calls and get you on the net. If you want good pictures you got to get better equipment. ”
My DSLR stuff has been collecting dust, but, on this trip, Scott has taken his Nikon DSLR out of its case and taken a few photos.
The entire process is like discovering that you can eat soup with a fork, if you like, but it is easier and less messy to use a spoon.
So, here are a few photos taken with the Nikon.
I like them and hope Pat likes them too.
Next trip, there will be substantially more of them.
Across from Billini plaza is a well to do man’s home of the nineteen hundreds.
His home, which I am shown through, is several hundred years older than the Alcazar de Don Colon and several hundred years behind homes you find now in the Zona Colonia with modern refrigerated air, jacuzzi’s, fancy kitchens and garages. In another two hundred years, the homes of the future will be with us and who knows what rich people will demand that might filter down to the rest of us.
This home, luxurious in it’s day, doesn’t even meet the required building codes in most American middle class neighborhoods in these times.
What is more worth weighing is whether this man and family of the eighteenth century, compared with another man and family of our twenty first century, flourished and lived a happy life.
A house doesn’t need to be new and fancy to be a happy home.
What is more important than square footage and stainless steel appliances is whether the man of this house was happy to go home, and the people in his home were happy to see him when he hung up his hat and came inside the front door.
I’m walking, minding my business, on a cloudless day.
Water pours down like someone is pouring a bucket of water on me, which they are.
In the Zona Colonia, water used to mop balcony floors, or spilled when watering plants, exits the upstairs balcony through a piece of PVC pipe sticking through the balcony walls far enough that the excess water falls to the street below.
My next precaution is to take an umbrella on my jaunts.
If I had a plug and a ladder, I’d climb up and fix my problem and give these careless horticulturists a well deserved back up of their plumbing.
All they have to do is look down and make sure no one is below before they empty their buckets.
That’s common courtesy, but you don’t have to have courtesy when you live on the top floor.
When you live upstairs, it gets easy to forget those below you.
The materials employed to make these mobile constructions are exquisitely simple – wire, fishing line, paper mache, paint.
One touch of one hummingbird and all of them are flying, fearless in space, reminding me of hummingbirds in the Costa Rican Monteverde Rain Forest, reminding me of a hummingbird in South Fork, Colorado, reminding me of hummingbird’s gravitating to a feeder on brother Alan’s back porch overlooking the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.
These hand made hummingbird’s in a Santo Domingo art gallery, all dance in front of me, in an orbiting circle, set in motion by a little tap by my right hand forefinger.
Setting things in motion is what us humans do, instinctively, all the time.
My right forefinger, on my laptop mouse, starts this post’s video in motion too, with a slight gentle left click..
There is art everywhere on Calle Conti, leaning against walls in pedestrian walkways, stacked deep in little shops along with Dominican Republic baseball caps and knick knacks. The canvases are small, medium, and large, but all seem to have been painted by the same pair of hands.
Bolo’s, on a different street,catches my eye, which is a good sign for a business that deals in tantalizing the eyes and tweaking the spirit. Outside, by the gallery’s front door are three colorful masks and browsers can see quickly that there is space inside the gallery to stand back and look at the art and crafts sold inside.
The galleries featured artist this month, Almanzar from Haiti, has displayed a series of self portraits done in a pointillist like style, with subtle girl colors.To counterbalance her glowing transcendence there are colorful fish hung on an opposing wall, a hummingbird construction towards the back of the shop that draws me to it, and an entire bookcase full of quaint, colorful wood figures sitting on the edge of each book shelf.
The black sales woman has music on, a glowing smile, and is gracious enough to let me take my time and just browse on a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week.
I do wonder about an artist that does a show of self portraits.
Why would someone you don’t know want to buy your self portrait?
Wouldn’t they really just want to buy one of themselves?