I have passed the coconut palm in front of my home hundreds of times. It was just another plant in a tropical mosaic that dots the west coast of Bonaire here, and mostly there. But one day last month I stopped dead in my tracks. I spotted writing on the coconuts of this splendid tree in front of my home. Yes, they were now ‘signature coconuts’.
The first two entries were feeble down-island declarations. One coconut had the word, blody etched into its soft, sun-soaked, yellow skin. The other, micky. Perhaps it was a woozy, late-night attempt of a staggering drunk to spell out Bloody Mary or Mickey Finn. High tide or cross currents must have short circuited the tipsy scribbler’s motor drive, leaving two misspelled words.
Days went by with no explanation. Then two other inscriptions suddenly appeared on the coco palm. One was James Rast was hier. The other proclaimed Papi- the baas (the boss, in Dutch). This was an easy mystery to solve. The BSC painting crew of rasta man, James and Papi had returned, as they do each summer, to paint the exterior of the Playa Lechi Residence. When I asked them about the inscriptions, they proudly smiled and laughed. That is just good community. These guys were taking ownership of their workplace. Hopi bon! A week passed and another name appeared, Sander Boy. This six year-old Dutch kid, who resides in Apartment 2 when on vacation, had made his contribution. Sander is very together. He sails, wind surfs, snorkels, swims like a fool. He is water boy. It is pity for him that he doesn’t live full time on Bonaire. Sander is truly a child of the island, embracing it all with joy.
Daze pass. The wind drops to nothing. It has been sucked away by some bad weather forming up north that threatens to terrorize the people of Haiti, poor souls. Fortunately, it never becomes a hurricane. Here at 12 Lat., my coco palm barely moves in the breeze. I pack diving gear and go with friends to the east coast more commonly known as the Wild Side due to churning surf, full-blown trade winds and treacherous rock. Just last week a Dutch sailboat mistakenly grounded itself on the reef of Lac Bay.* This is no place to fool around. But on this day, there is no wind and small surf thanks to Tropical Storm Emily trying to form near Hispaniola. We go to Baby Beach and dive. At dive’s end, we spot ancient cannons and three ship’s anchors, two of which are the size of Mazda pickup trucks. These artifacts from the pirate days lie in 20 feet of water on a bed of soft white sand.
By the time we arrive home, I notice another mark on a coconut. This one is creepy and cryptic. It is more of a down-island design, a lush logo, a sweltering symbol of selfdom. I stare at the intersection of strange lines. It looks a bit Tongan in design. Perhaps it was etched by a runaway Scientologist. After all, the Freewinds cruise ship is in town. It is the tourist barge of choice by those souls who follow in this commercial religion that proclaims people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature. Just ask Tom Cruse, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta or Edgar Winter, all members of the clan. Only the other day, we saw lifeboats full of Scientologists; oars held high, practicing rescue drills in Kralendijk harbor. Perhaps one of the disgruntled slipped overboard, ran away, and carved their freedom mark into one of the coconuts.
Could be. Then again, I live near the equator. The sun is now overhead and bloody hot. It’s time to get inside, swing away in the hammock with a cool glass of lemonade and contemplate the mysteries of signature coconuts.
*The sailboat was pulled off the reef three days later by a tugboat. In the process, a hole had ripped open her hull. The rescue crew buoyed the boat with air bags for flotation, and the tug began to tow the boat back to Kralendijk. The sea tore away the air bags during the voyage. She sunk off of Bonaire’s southern point near the Willemstoren lighthouse.