I had been to the home improvement store several times in the past month but did not buy it. However, last Saturday I succumbed to tropical temptation. There it was right next to the bags of charcoal—a tiki torch. Now for those of you who might not know, a tiki torch is a bamboo stick with an oil lamp on top. Tiki torches were central to Polynesian culture and ceremony. They lit up Pacific nights from Bora Bora to Kauai while the islanders shook out the hula deep into the darkness. So why not light up my little island of Bonaire far south in the Caribbean Sea? I grabbed the torch along with an oversized bottle of Beach Torch Lamp Oil and headed for the check out. I was ready to get down and limbo.
That evening we arrived at Vista Blue, a stretch of sand and rock along the south east coast of Bonaire. There was about an hour of sunlight left, and along with beach chairs, barbeque grill, coolers, and a table, I grabbed the tiki torch out of the car. I shoved the bamboo shaft into the soft sand with ceremonial gusto. If I had had a conch shell right then I would have blown out homage to the sea gods. It was like setting a triumphant, tribal spear. Time for a Saturday night beach party to begin.
Six of us gathered to eat grilled mahi mahi, baba ghanoush and swill cold rum. The sun set with a Green Flash that half of the group saw. All of us spotted 18 flaming pink flamingos floundering above in a disorganized flock. While these birds sashay through the water like elegant Paris runway models, they are cumbersome at best in the air. No matter. Seeing those gangly sticks of pink plumage in flight does wonders for the soul.
As usual, Vista Blue paid off in spades.
But the camaraderie of the evening topped all. Harrison and Katie had escaped the uncommon cold of North Carolina and told tales of sailing the islands in years past in soft Southern accents reminiscent of sweet caramel. We swapped lies of careers and adventures, divorces and travels. The conversation flowed under the warm glow of the tiki torch.
By now it was coal dark and I asked the group what they thought of the new beach beacon. Thumbs up by all. We were amazed how much light one torch produced. I had thoughts of buying a second earlier, but no need after this trail run. But because of the flame we were missing was the cosmic show of stars, planets and satellites from above. I grabbed the wooden cap dangling from the bamboo staff and doused the flame. All six of us simultaneously said, “oo la la” or something to that effect. The heavens dropped down to us. Three shooting stars were reported. A small plane high in the sky headed toward South America was decided to be a drug runner heading back for another load. Jupiter, we think, was rising in the east.
The group gazed at the heavens until chill and sleep descended upon us. It was time to, as Lightnin’ Hopkins once sang, “bottle it up and go”. This was a beach party to remember, basking in the glow of the tiki torch.