Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Beat of Margarita Island

It’s hot. 11 p.m. Even at night the air shimmers. I’m in my baggy chinos, light green T-shirt and a new flower in my hair from Erick, the waiter. The heat is actually like a warm bath, very comfortable.

Erick gives me a folded paper napkin and then scurries away, a shy grin on his face. “Hello, I like you,” it reads. I smile back and wave and he ducks behind the bar to escape the jibes from his fellow cohorts: Wilson -- who is sunshine in human form; Alberto, a round, full-faced Latino; and David, a god in his own mind.

I have a feeling that we will become great friends...


Last night was most excellent. The hottest dancing I’ve done in my life. Wilson and his friends took me to a local dance club; very few tourists, certainly no Americanos. Smiles abounded (I’m getting laugh lines), sex was in the air, but it was a freeing, joyous delight flow of bodies to music which pulsates no matter where you go. ... it gets under my skin, it’s in the bounce of my step, and in the way my body moves: the music of this island carries me. Even when I’m out in the boat, far from the shore, I can still feel the beat.

I’m enamored by Wilson and his sunny personality. When we dance, he smells like the ocean and when we kiss, he is the sea.

I woke up to a parrot screeching at 6 a.m. When I stepped onto the balcony, the air was already thick with the promise of heat; the sun was swathed with moisture as though it had just stepped out of its ocean bath. Below me, around the pool, the hotel staff were making dull, clicking noises as they unstacked the plastic lounge chairs for the residents of the resort. It was strangely rhythmic as well, and I wanted to join them and talk to them in Tarzan-like Spanish.

I’ve learned that a friendly face is only a smile away.

Mom is in the ocean, playing in the waves. I’m at a little bar hut on the beach, sipping a Polar and watching the pearl sellers. They seem content despite the fact that they’re on the beach peddling wares, or maybe that’s why they are content. I know Mom will be suckered into buying a few strands, but this is her vacation too.


I’ve never realized how powerful sense of smell is. All of my senses have been heightened, but certainly the smells here are something else. I remember passages of Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” and how he described orange blossoms, not necessarily by detailed, technical language, but in content. In other words, he used the orange blossoms to enhance the character’s personalities, to decorate the event which he was writing about, and through that I was able to smell them... though I’ve never smelled an orange blossom in my life.

Here, everything is sundrenched, warm, and wet. It’s as if the sky itself tugs the scents of everything out toward it. Juicy tomatoes, doused with vinegar and decorated with slices of cheese smell of succulent herb gardens. The tough leaves of the palm trees still maintain a tang of chlorophyll. And the smell of pineapples and sea breeze are everywhere. ...

...I went on a horseback riding tour along the beach. A teen-aged boy was my guide. As soon as we headed inland toward the red, baked-clay hills, the sun seemed to make my whole body throb. There is great relief on the windier beaches of this island and I have no inclination to spend too much time in what I consider to be a desert environment.

I remember saying that I would go horseback riding no matter what; even if I had to ride a donkey. My little cavallo was almost exactly that: a donkey. Bred for work and not aesthetics, he was short, brown, and had longer ears than most horses I’ve seen. Not exactly sleek and sexy as I would envision a Latino horse to be, but he took me along the surf, and played beneath my thighs the way a good Latino would.

Carlos, the boy, spoke hardly any English so I had to play Charades with him. I indicated that I wanted to run the horse along the surf. Carlos was a little chagrined, indicating that I would have to stay behind him (I imagine for insurance purposes). I smiled openly, lovingly, and ruffled his hair. “No worries, mate. I’ve ridden before.” I know he didn’t understand but he became more submissive and I urged my little cavalry onward.

We trotted by an old fishing village, where a dead blowfish rolled in the surf. A pig had settled into a pool of sea and sand, reluctant to get up even at a young boy’s prodding. The pig’s accoster wore grayish, old underwear, and poked at him with a stick. As I passed, the boy looked up and flashed me one of those brilliant Venezuelan smiles -- so bright against their dark faces -- and shouted something unintelligible to me.

Whatever he said, I got a good feeling in my heart. It seems to be the theme of this trip...

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