Friday, March 20, 2009

Piccolo Pete, Charlie's Bread, and my new friend Jameson

Kristen here – Never trust what you read. The guidebook said that the residents of North Bimini were unfriendly which is absolutely untrue! It was a bit of culture shock for all of us. Yesterday we went to North Bimini on the dinghy. We motored the whole length of the island in very bumpy and wet seas, unable to find the dinghy dock. We stopped at a random dock to ask directions. A very nice man told us exactly where to go. We found the spot, which turned out to be a beach at the opposite end of the island. There were a bunch of men sitting on benches who saw the confusion on our faces when we couldn’t find something to tie the dinghy up to. They told us to tie up to a sign at the top of the beach. Our immediate reaction was that we should lock everything up tight because they would probably try to take something. But you can’t let that stop you from enjoying a new place. You have to have faith, so off we went.

We hurried through Alice Town and headed straight for BatelCo. Chris wanted to check on the price and coverage of cell phones in the Bahamas. As we were walking, a man sitting on some stairs, outside a place called Precious d’Paris jumped up and introduced himself to us. “I’m Piccolo Pete you know!” he said. “I’m famous around here”. Again, our immediate reaction was one of disbelief. When is he going to ask us for money, I thought to myself. He was a quite lively fellow. I’m still getting used to the Bahamian accent, so we had a bit of trouble understanding him. He asked us how old we thought he was. We didn’t want to be rude, so ventured a guess in the 70’s. Then he said that he was 95 years old. We couldn’t believe it! He told us that he owns the Precious d’Paris and does a show there. Then he started singing his own version of God Bless America, and dancing to it as well. We were still having trouble understanding most of his singing and wanted to get to BatelCo before it closed, so we excused ourselves and thanked him for the chat.

When we got back to the boat later, we Googled Piccolo Pete, and to our surprise he was telling no lies. He really IS famous! As it turns out, he was a fishing guide, and friends with Hemmingway, and was the inspiration for much of The Old Man and The Sea. He is a jazz singer as well. That’s it, we’ve got to shake our old ways. Everyone is not out to get us or steal our stuff or ask us for money!

After Piccolo Pete we went on to BatelCo. The lady there was very nice as well. After she answered all of our cell phone questions, we asked how to get to Charlie’s Bread. The woman at the market down the street from the marina had told us that Charlie had the true Bimini Bread. After getting directions, we headed off. We found a house with a sign on it saying Charlie’s Bread. When I went up the broken concrete stairs and peered in, I could see a regular living room. “I must be in the wrong place”, I thought. This is a house, not a bread store. So, we went to the building next door, which was a market. The man there said that Charlie was home and we should just knock on his door. Reassured that we had the right place, I went back up the broken concrete stairs and knocked on the door. Charlie and a very bright eyed and giggly little pigtailed girl answered the door. “Do you have any bread today?” I asked. “Sure, how many do you want?” he replied. I said we wanted two, and he went off to get it while the little girl tried to escape. I assured him that we would keep her from running out the door. She was just the cutest thing ever! She kept giggling and running at us and then running back to a chair. Charlie came back with two loaves and we paid and said thank you.

Once again, it was not what we were expecting. At home you can’t sell bread out of your front door. Apparently in the Bahamas you can. And let me tell you, it’s really good bread! It’s light and fluffy white bread with just a hint of sweetness. Tomorrow I’m going to make some French toast out of it! YUM!

On the way back from Charlie’s we stopped in a couple of shops to find a keychain for Kaitlin’s collection. The stores were a bit of a shock as well. They were all very small and crowded with random stuff. Souvenirs and clothing, beauty products and groceries were all sold in the same shop. Nothing was fresh or new. Several of the keychains we looked at had rusty rings on them. Soda wasn’t presented in a glass display case. The three soda choices available were located in a small college fridge in the back of the store.

A little further down the road, a man with a bag of lobster tails stopped us and told us he’d seen us before. He said when he met us before, he was going to show us where to find lobster. We had no recollection of any such encounter. He then asked if we wanted to buy his bag of tails. We told him no thanks. “Only $50”, he said. I looked at the clear plastic bag of tails with a bit of pink liquid sitting in the corner and contemplated taking him up on the offer. We said no thanks, we would be catching our own the next day. Then a local walked buy and he told him $60 for the tails. Darn, I thought, I should have at least asked to smell them, and then bargained him down. There were at least 6 or 7 large tails in that bag!

When we finally arrived at the dinghy, everything was still there. The kids said they were glad to be going back to the boat. Alice Town made them uneasy. I explained to them that the people here relied on tourism for a source of income. The Bahamians are going to do everything they can to make sure we have a pleasant experience, and encourage more people to come to their island. It made sense, but I wasn’t entirely sure of my statement.

Tonight at dinner, I was proven correct by a resident. We explained to our waitress that we weren’t used to such friendliness as we have experienced in Bimini. She told us that she was raised to be nice to the tourists because they were the ones who supported the economy, put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. It was somehow reassuring and sad at the same time to hear that. It was nice to know that the people we had met were being genuine. But at the same time, they were only being nice because we were tourists. When we walk down the street we stick out like a sore thumb. There are only a handful of people here, so just about every native recognizes you. For instance, tonight the shuttle driver said he remembered seeing us drive out of the marina on the dinghy when he was driving the pontoon supply boat into the marina. It’s a small town!

I met another interesting fellow this morning while I was doing some exercises on the beach. As I was lost in my stretches, a young man came up and said hello. He explained that he would be raking the beach, and I didn’t need to move. After a couple of minutes, he came up and introduced himself. His name was Jameson. He asked where I was staying and how long I was staying for. After hearing my answer he seemed a bit sad. He explained that everyone he meets leaves and never comes back. Or if they do come back, they don’t remember him. I told him he was lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and he would have to expect such things from tourists. I also said that I would try to remember his name, and say hi if we ever came back to Bimini. So if any of you come to Bimini, be sure to ask for Jameson, and tell him Kristen from Pelican sent you!

Today we tried our hand at lobstering. Well, I should say tried our hand at finding lobster. We dinghied out to the Bahama Banks and looked for ledges of grass. Everyone has said that is where they hang out. We tried about three different locations with no luck. We saw starfish, colorful tropical fish, a baby stingray hiding under some old discarded boat batteries, something that looked like a long legged spider, but no lobsters. I hear that once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to find them. Hopefully that time comes soon!

To add to the hurt, a new boat pulled into the marina this evening. We invited them to eat dinner with us, but they declined because they were about to eat the 6 lobsters caught earlier that day!! Sure, rub it in why don’t ya! As it turns out they were from Averill Park, NY (a city right next door to our hometown of East Greenbush). They have been cruising 6 months out of the year since 1972. Tomorrow we will go pump them for Bahamas and lobstering knowledge. One of these days I’ll get my free lobster!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about some more pictures of Bimini Sands? JC3