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?
Tobacco farms and factories are actually located closer to the city of Santiago, in the Dominican Republic but you can get a whiff of the industry in Santo Domingo.
The Arturo Fuentes Cigar Club, in Santo Domingo, is a retail smoke shop, but it is also a gathering place for those who love to smoke their cigars and talk about the experience. It is a place, later in the evening, for anyone who wants to shop for fine cigars and accessories, have a drink, book one of the private smoking rooms for a personal party, or just sit in the bar and share cigar stories with people who love to hear them.
Alan, my cigar loving brother, tells me he met Carlito Fuentes at a cigar exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada a few years back and has a photo of Carlito and himself with Carlito’s sister. Alan likes the “858” Maduro’s and appreciates the civic works of the Fuentes family.
This morning the store has just opened. The cleaning staff is still at work dusting and vacuuming and the receptionist is kind enough to show me the club’s premier cigar vault, answer my questions, wait for me to call my brother to see what cigars he wants, if any, and show me some of the Club’s perks.
One of the coolest areas is a little room, off the main lobby, that has individual lockers stocked with their owners own personal stash of cigars so they can have one any time they are in the Club, without waiting. One of the lockers is owned by Angel Jimeniz, a professional golfer you see on television in major international tournaments. His name is written on a nice little card in a slot on the door of one of the lockers.
The sales girl finds me a nice box for the cigars I buy for Alan, rings up my sale and packs Alan’s cigars nicely, calls me a cab, and advises me that the cab ride is ” not more than two hundred pesos ” which turns out to be 100% correct.
Next time back here, I’ll dress nicer,spend more money. and leave her a bigger tip.
People on this island are exceedingly gracious.
If they had this store, in the Zona Colonia, I would be there every evening, cradling a cigar, still in its wrapper, in my right hand, listening to patrons rambling about their cigars, their love life, politics and their latest business victories.
I can think of better addictions to acquire and cultivate than smoking, but I would never talk bad about someone pursuing vices that only hurt themselves.
Cocoa is grown mostly in West Africa but is also cultivated in the Dominican Republic,Grenada and Nicaragua, all located in the same geographical band circling the waist of our planet.
Cocoa is labor intensive to grow and turn into products people will buy, but it gives us chocolate, which tastes good to most everyone and is healthy now, unless you ask your dentist.
This Cacao Museo is located north of the Parque Colon, in Santo Domingo, and it is surprising all the cacao products that are sold here.
Business is slow this afternoon, but reading the health benefits of unprocessed cocoa is going to send me to a health foods store when I get back to New Mexico, right after I get my healthy bottle of rum at the neighborhood liquor store..
My bar of chocolate is done by the time I leave the museo, but I can still taste it when I get back to my guesthouse and find myself wishing I had bought a few more bars for the road.
I’ve never needed a museum to be sold on chocolate.
Chocolate,as ancient Aztecs believed, does keep Doctors away.
Even back in pre- history, people were often afraid of their health care providers.
Larimar is one of Earth’s creations, formed by great pressures, huge temperatures, great shiftings of the Earth’s crust over millions of years. It is found only in the Dominican Republic where it is mined, cut, polished, and fashioned into fine jewelry.
One of the shops off the Parque Colon in Santo Domingo is the Museum of Larimar which is both a museum and retail shop that sells larimar, as well as amber, another Dominican Republic treasure.
This little upstairs museum has English as well as Spanish descriptions in its history of how Larimar is created, how it is mined, and how it is used by it’s devotees. The sales ladies are low pressure and the soft blue and white gemstone is pleasing to my eye. Any of these necklaces would look well around a dainty woman”s neck, dressed for a nice dinner engagement with the person of her choosing.
There are street vendors in the Zona Colonia who have propositioned me to buy their stones. They hold a cigarette lighter with a flame up to their pieces to show their product is real and not plastic. Buying the gem in this museum gives me a written guarantee and certificate of authenticity for not much more money.
What is hard is seeing photos of tunnel rats who dig deep to find the gem. Their faces in the photos of the exhibit are dirty and their implements simple, shovels and pry bars and bamboo sticks.
Most things we covet have tales of hardship behind them.
Shouldn’t these real gemstones, millions of years old, wrestled from the Earth, polished and turned into jewelry, be worth more than the pieces of paper we purchase them with?
Halloween has crawled out of the grave for another year.
At a local Starbucks, Freddie doesn’t have to bone up on store policy, customer relations, or how to work the register. He hands out coffee and keeps his mouth shut because he rattles when he talks. This morning his fellow employees have a close hold on their cell phones, and, right now, are as dead to their employer as he is.
What shocks me is the lack of response Freddie gets. A few customers smile when I take his picture and ask him ” what’s going on, Dude? ”
Mostly, these days, people are into their phones, more dead to the world than Freddie.
Trying to communicate with the living dead is a day to day thing most all of us have learned to endure.
The boneyard, I glean from this coffee break, is closer than I’d like to be.
Rubbing elbows with skeletons is not my favorite cup of tea.
The saying used to be ” An apple a day keeps the Doctor Away. ”
In 2017, there were 27,339 Starbucks stores globally.
Back in World War 2, coffee kept pilots awake on long flights to targeted cities, helped wives and girlfriends who watched the postman walk up to the front door with fear. On Route 66, coffee was served in diners for five cents a cup to wash down blue plate specials, chicken fried steak with mixed vegetables, potato’s and gravy. Coffee was a working man’s drink.
At a recent European Cardiac Society Congress,however, coffee was recognized as having significant positive correlations with keeping coffee drinkers alive. According to their most recent scientific study, older people drinking two cups a day of Joe had a thirty percent reduction in mortality rates. Coffee was discovered to lower one’s risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and Parkinson’s.
This sign, says, with certainty, that ” three cups a day keeps the Doctor away.
With Doctor’s track records, mortality should be on every patient’s mind.
If drinking coffee made us young again, Starbucks would triple in size overnight.
McDonalds was one of the first corporate giants to infiltrate American communities with cheap hamburgers, fast food, employee training programs, marketing strategies, toys for the kids, drive up windows, extended operating hours. You can dine in any corporate or franchise store and get sameness.
McDonalds leapfrogged across the United States leaving stores wherever its arches touched ground. Their business formula is so profitable the company has planted its logo worldwide and a generation of kids choose Egg Mc’muffins over frosted flakes.
Now Mickey’s has a new employee – the Big Mac Kiosk.
Machines make great employees. They aren’t late, don’t do drugs, don’t have fights with their spouse, don’t steal, don’t need a health care plan.
How does a society survive when its people are replaced by computers?
The Big Mac Kiosk shows the State of the Union better than a President’s speech.
This wind sock, inflated early this morning, has flailing arms and an ambiguous smile on its face.
Creede hasn’t awoken yet, but June, the lady who lives in her parked Tiny House and sells food from her trailer cafe, is cooking already, at eight in the morning.
” I like your house….. ”
” It has everything I need, ” June says as she sips her morning cup of hot chocolate, turning on burners and slicing onions, looking at me like a suspicious pirate.
She has a big pickup for pulling her home away in a month when the first snow hits Creed, Colorado. Her truck plates are Texas but she volunteers to me that she will pull her rig to Florida and sell smoothies to tourists in swimsuits and bikinis, wearing hippie bracelets around their wrists and ankles.
You can see this blue sock from blocks away and it has big black eyes and long Ichibod Crane fingers snapping the air.
Big multinational corporations sell using Madison Avenue advertising agencies packed with employee’s with MBA’s and degrees in Psychology, Sales, Marketing and Sociology. Once they turn us into cookie cutter people and make their products our choices,their job becomes easier and more profitable. In Creede, and most of Main Street, where we live,this wind sock is more than enough advertising to get the point across.
Inside June’s Tiny House, there is room to stretch out, fix dinner, watch her big screen television, read a book, have special people over, clean up, curl up on the couch, let sunlight crawl through the window blinds.
A home base doesn’t have to be anchored to be a home.
A chalkboard street sign on Creede’s Main Street reminds us all to, ” Follow your soul! It knows where to go.”
June follows her soul, and the wind sock, this morning, says her soul is open for business but heading to Florida as the first snowflakes fall on the windshield of her big Chevy truck.
If you walk outside the Christianville front gate, past the security man sitting in a chair with a weapon by his side, you can make a quick right and follow a single lane road into the countryside.
Less than a quarter mile, past the Old Well, you drop in to Haiti Made, grab a smoothie and visit with locals and foreign tourists.
Displayed on tables,walls and pallets are handmade items made by local men and women who are part of a craft co-operative.
Jan is in court today and works the register, takes orders, meets friends who come in with pitches for various community projects. There are Americans living in Haiti and many have Christian intentions.
Love and Grace are operative words today and the smoothies are smooth. My favorite is banana cherry, but some of the kids like banana peanut butter, or cherry lime. They are all made with real fruit.
On this hot afternoon, with heat rising and the feel of rain in the air, going to Haiti Made makes a good comma in another long drawn out Faulkner sentence about hope and fear in a desolate Garden of Eden.