It has been a couple of years now that I have looked on with envy. Often, I would simply be walking down the street, and from behind, heard the pulsating beat, the cries of joy and see some serious movin’ & shakin’ goin’ on. I would turn and witness 40-plus people jumping up and down inside a vintage US school bus painted in vibrant colors. No, this was not a flashback to the 60s. This was the Pahr-Tay Bus truckin’ on down the street.
But last month, I finally got my chance to ride the good times machine. Monique from the Animal Shelter had quit her job and was returning to Holland for good. The group decided to rent the Party Bus for a send-off party and Hettie, being an Animal Shelter volunteer, was invited. I tagged along by the power of association. Yeah, baby. Pedal to the metal.
We show up at the post office parking lot in downtown Kralendijk on a late Saturday afternoon. Our group, too, is about 40 people—mostly adults but also a couple of kids. Marco, our bus driver for the next hour or so, opens the emergency back door and two coffin-sized coolers full of adult beverages are loaded on. With a blast from Marco’s cucaracha horn, we are off.
Booming speakers hanging in all four corners of the bus pump out some serious Bob Marley to get us moving. Then 70s disco follows. People begin dancing in the aisle and hanging out the windows. Saturday Night Fever moves are everywhere, enough to make John Travolta blush. I get up to shake when the soul music begins. I’ve never heard these tunes before. It’s not Motown, but the numbers have that raw, Wilson Pickett kind of vibe that I just find irresistible. Everybody is out of their seats, shakin’ down.
I’ve never been a dancer, but with limited room and added motion from the road sway, I’m not doing too badly. Don’t fall down though. Marco jostles the party bus enough to make cups tip. Our volunteer bartender at the back of the bus is spilling wine during the pour. Cast-aside beer bottles are toppling over at a serious pace. Soon the floor is wet and the aroma of suds blends with the warm tropical air. Marco looks back in the rear-view and simply smiles. No problem for him. The cleaning crew will take care of the mess.
The departing Monique is having a fine time and is in constant dance mode. There’s Jane Disko doing the Bugaloo. Jane’s a Cleveland girl via Houston and Key West. It was in Cleve-town where she served long ago as a WHK-radio DJ. And yes, that is her real name. You might remember reading it on the credits of The Deer Hunter where she played a bit role across from Di Niro back in the 70s. Hettie and my hair cutter, Barbelle, are dancing together. Here comes Laura De Salvo, co-owner of the Bonaire Reporter newspaper, groovin’ down the aisle with camera
and beer in hand. She’s my ideal of what I want to be when I grow up to be 70. Everybody is now on their feet except two stodgy Dutch guys who look extremely irritated by the excessive decibels and drinking. Between tiny sips of white wine, both wear the when will this ever be over look. Apparently, they are “Friends of the Shelter” and also friends of Monique. Oops. Someone just spilled a beer on their heads. There goes next year’s donation.
The best thing I like about the Party Bus is how it spreads the love. As we cruise the waterfront, people stop in their tracks to see the commotion. Some wave. Others start dancing to the music that we bring. Old people smile, unlike the two “Friends of the Shelter” guys, still wet from the spilled suds.
At open-air restaurants, diners toast us with frosted glasses. The wait staff grins. Most of us aboard are local and we get to greet acquaintances along the way. There is Yellowman flashing his gold front tooth. As we pass the Kanti’ Awa (Waterfront) Bar, Ernst from Basil and Noel from Dublin raise their Polar beer bottles in good cheer. At Yellow Submarine my dive instructor buddy, Marvelous, gives up his signature smile. I spot my fisherman friend, Tino, just back from a day on the water. “Hey, Tino,” I shout. “Konta bai?” (How’s it going). Tino holds up a string of freshly-caught red snapper in response.
It has been a very rewarding day, not only for Tino, but also for nearly all on the Party Bus. After an hour of cruisin’ and boozin’, the party is over. Marco promptly drives off in the Party Bus with Bob Marley and the Wailers fading in the distance. We are back to earth again, so to speak, and bodily functions are demanding full attention. Now where is that public restroom?