An Anole Up The Palm

imagesAnother Island Note

So what is an anole, you might ask?  Who knows?  At least that is what I said before I moved down island.  I know what it is now.  Think sleek, fast and sexy.  An anole is the Lamborghini of the lizard world. These 3-5 inch reptiles are classier than chameleons—they have no need for ego-affirming coloration tricks although they can change color.  They don’t get the fuzzy-friendly press that geckos do, but that doesn’t seem to bother them.  And they are more ingenious than iguanas.  After all, you never hear of stobi di anole (anole stew), but for the brave or unaware, stobi di yuana (iguana stew) can be found any day for those who seek its crunchy, sinew-packed, greasy taste.

When I see these smart-as-a-whip anoles, they always look me in the eye before disappearing out of sight.  That always makes my day.  Perhaps it is their ability to be here one moment and then gone the next in a blink of an eye that I admire so much.  Clark Kent should be so lucky.  But anoles are also symbolic of fleeting events that happen on island—here today, gone tomorrow or even in the next second.

DSC_0795Take, for instance, fishing.  I am in an aluminum boat with my sailing buddy, Patrick Hulsker, and his son, Cai, named after a point of land that juts out into our drop-dead gorgeous lagoon to the east.  Patrick was one in the famous crew of eight who ventured with me to Venezuela’s Aves Islands last fall (Island Notes-Three Sunsets).  Anyway, the three of us are out fishing by Klein Bonaire, Bonaire offshore little sister.  Actually, I’m just sitting on the boat enjoying a pleasantly warm January afternoon.  Trolling for dinner seems to go on for hours.  The constant drone of the Yamaha outboard exaggerates time.  I dream about dripping Salvador Dali clocks.  Ah, to be back sailing again.

But all of a sudden a line bends.  Cai grabs the hand reel and starts to haul in.  Patrick takes over and by the time we see the five hook lure, we land four fish in one try.  What odds.  We just start laughing—3 black fin tuna and 1 boonie (bonito) all in one catch. Moments later we snag a barracuda on a proper fishing rod and bring it in.  Ah, sashimi and pan-fried fillet tonight.

DSC_0018And that is island life.  What apparently goes so slow and for so long can change in a heartbeat here.  There was a very beautiful Antillean home in downtown Kralendijk.  Its mustard colored walls and weather beaten shutters spoke of yesteryear Bonaire.  It was a visual touchstone for me and many others, a symbol of the island’s tranquil past. Because of its age and rarity, the house was protected by local law similar in spirit to what in the United States is known as the Historical Register.  Then one day I drove by only to find the house gone, completely leveled.  It had been destroyed by a developer’s bulldozer in the early morning before many people were up and about.  Damage done.  The site is now a soulless parking lot.

It is the end of another day at Sunset Beach. My k-nine sidekick, Sparky, and I sit side-by-side in the open end of my Subaru station wagon facing the sea.  While she stares images-1at the endless waves, I ponder the speed of change.  The hound suddenly whips her furry head toward a palm and I spot what the catahoula swamp dog has beamed in on.  It is a determined anole precariously clinging to the tree’s trunk.  It is quite a sight with the animal dramatically silhouetted against a golden sky.  Bon tardi, lagadishi.  Good afternoon, lizard.  The reptile looks at me and smiles. In the time it takes a green flash to blink, the anole is gone, vanished, finito la música, up the palm tree.  And as Cher, that aging goddess of pop, once chanted in diminishing volume, And the beat goes on and on and on.

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Down Island Daydreams

Another episode of…DSC_0671Island Notes

Daydreaming has always been a favorite pastime of mine.  I enjoy involuntarily submitting to the spontaneous flow into subconsciousness.  I revel in the abandonment of reality.  And I savor the places to which these thoughts take me along the cerebral highway.

There are no places better to delve into daydreaming than islands.  The sights, sounds and smells of these aquatic outposts seem to trigger mental sojourns of more vibrancy than the distant mainland.  Perhaps it is the isolation of islands that enhances the experience.11MarchBON 50

I know that is true on Bonaire.  This place is a daydreamer’s heaven, and I engage in it often.  It can be as simple as the smell of a fresh rain. 11JanBON 25 On this dry island, mixing water with dust takes me back to my days of living in the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico.  There is no hint of greasewood here, but the strong scent of earth and H2O are the same.  And just about the time I am having recollections of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, the delicate aroma of a frangipani wafts by.  That leads me to thoughts of swaying palms, island girls and ships at sea.  I leave desert thoughts behind like a dust devil.

12BONFeb 47The sounds of the island also spark daydreams.  This happens to me almost daily as I lay awake in bed after a night of dreams.  The muted light of the new day flows through my shuttered window.  I lay still listening to the sounds outside.  A rooster crows Bon Dia.  A tropical oriole sings its sweet songs.  It has two distinctive tunes that are heard only in the days’ first hour.  These birdland melodies sweep me into a continuation of a dream from the night before with my eyes wide shut.

And then there are the sights of the island that elicit dreams.  It can be a tall mast on the infinite blue horizon.  Perhaps it is an explosion of ballyhoo beings chased by  a yellow-fined tuna catapulting its huge black silhouette above sea’s surface.  Or maybe it is the subtle quiver of a divi divi’s leaves made by a wave forcing wind through a limestone blowhole.11MarchBON 48

So as the day ends at Sunset Beach my dog, Sparky, and I get one last daydream prompt.  We are treated to a Green Flash, but this one uncharacteristically strobes chartreuse bands above the horizon for a good thirty seconds.  The dog looks at me with “wow” in her deep brown eyes.  I concur.  We both sit there barkless and speechless.  It has been an extraordinary day of down island daydreams and now it is time for night.DSC_0219

Masked Strangers

Another Island Note…DSC_1213

No one seems to know who they actually are.  Nor can anyone speculate when they will appear except on New Year’s Day.  They are the Maskarada, a semi-secretive performance group with its roots steeped in island lore.DSC_1196

DSC_1189I have scored on an invitation to join the Lt. Governor and others at her comfortable Ocean Breeze home.  By 10 in the morning the masked players gather to dance and frolic.  There are a dozen dancers with harlequinesque costumes, paper mache crowns and painted masks made of fine mesh.

Then there are the characters: a fisherman in a boat called Helen…DSC_1218

A man with the body of a huge shark mounted on his head…DSC_1221

A cowboy straddling an oversexed donkey complete with a Harley-Davidson blanket…DSC_1202

DSC_1219and at last, a hybrid—part bull and part matador who continually attempts to gore something. These characters speak mostly in primitive grunts and shouts.  The only intelligible words that I catch now and then are Bon Aña, Happy New Year.

The dancers are accompanied by a small band of musicians.  There are dueling accordions, a pair of kuarters– 4-stringed guitars from Venezuela, and a ukulele.  Two metals instruments called chapinan and a single drum supply the beat.  It is believed that the music has its roots in old Spanish songs, perhaps brought over by the Spaniards who came to Bonaire in the 1600s.  To me, it sounds simply like musika krioyo, the local music of Bonaire. DSC_1243

DSC_1192The Lt. Governor presents a bottle of white rum to the Maskarada, which is immediately poured into plastic cups of orange juice for immediate consumption.  Yes, it is early, but the Maskarada players are heavily weighted down with their thick costumes.  They need to beat the heat.  Then the fun starts.  The matador/bull mongrel starts chasing the shark.  This unlikely hunt goes on for a hilarious minute before the fisherman in Helen joins the fray.  The crowd roars with laughter as the shark is finally reeled in.  The band plays on.  The oversexed donkey does its gyrations to nobody in particular. The leader of the band makes authentic donkey sounds between sending text messages.  It is priceless.DSC_1227

The morning grows old and Maskarada starts to pack up.  The group will head off for another performances somewhere around the island.  This will go on all day as long as the rum flows.  Prospero Aña Nobo.  Have a prosperous New Year.DSC_1191DSC_1208DSC_1234DSC_1235DSC_1236DSC_1237DSC_1238DSC_1239