Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Definitely Fun Thing I'd Love to Do Again


I recently took a trip to Bermuda. It's an interesting place. A cool place. Nautically, quite a dangerous place. Aeronautically, quite a safe, easy trip despite my consternational tantrums. Dramamine? More like drama-queen.

Okay so I once again ignored my fear of flying--or, more accurately, tolerated it--in order to enjoy a week of 78 degrees and sunny, with 70 degree water and an all-inclusive resort (which included a metro bus-pass). Mostly I did this for my wife, whose wanderlust extends past the limits of metropolitan Philadelphia. (Mine does too, but only via auto.) Upon landing, frankly as amazed to be alive as John C. McGinley at the end of (spoiler) Platoon--I immediately started enjoying the new location, especially the peccadilloes of the local population. Getting off the plane, we passed a desk where an oddly serious man (by far the most serious person we will meet this entire trip) says, "Welcome to Bermuda. What brings you to Bermuda? [me: 'Vacation.']. How did you hear about Bermuda? [me: 'uh... I think the Beach Boys.']" He proceeded to jot notes down in a ledger. Tourism is their main economy. Even a good portion of those working in the service and hospitality industries are there on extended work-vacations which keep the tourism dollars circulating. In the world of 24-hour advertising, this gentleman needed to know which website, travel agent, or pop musicians alerted me to the existence of Bermuda. I was tempted to add that their pink beaches and mysterious triangle were also mentioned in a Weezer song. So I did.

I won't bore you with descriptions of the resort, other than: where we have squirrels--Bermuda has chickens. Lots of them. It's cool for us to see these relatively unusual animals, but the locals really have it out for these pests. And the chickens are somewhat athletic. When they're not yelling at each other, they like to chase each other around at sub-roadrunner sprints, stopping the table you're dining at to peck around for spilled food or booze. The concierge swore at one. The taxi drivers try to hit them when they wander into the road. If Inglorious Bastards had been written by a Bermudian, Christoph Waltz would be comparing the collective Judeo spirit to that of the chicken. At the check-in desk they beg us not to feed them and give us two standard-issue pellet-guns. Feels so manly, when armed.

One of my favorite things was getting on the bus. In places like Jamaica, they say you can't really leave the resort because it's not safe. But Bermuda (a country spanning 26 square miles) is apparently so safe that every crime of every degree is national news, for lack of enough local-interest fare to satisfy the telemericanized gossip-culture that has semi-managed to find a presence on the otherwise old-fashioned island nation. So, for a country with roughly the same number of murders and robberies this year as downtown Woodstock NY, the tourist buzz was 'grip your purse tight', even though the local attitude was 'could you hold my baby while I tie my shoe?'

The only other thing that was particularly modern were the buses. Despite the fact that the crappy, narrow and winding streets seem to have been originally designed with legos, the bus system was amazingly efficient. And, just like many U.S. city buses, Bermuda's public buses are engineered to kneel when picking up passengers. I'm glad the American philosophy of technology has been spreading worldwide: humans everywhere are designing their machines to genuflect before us. When my wife first stepped into our hotel room, the mini-fridge politely removed its cap. If the robocolypse finally occurs, it will be more of a slave-revolt than a civil-rights struggle. But I digress.

To describe the people of Bermuda, I would say it's 70% light-skinned black folks with an accent that is half Jamaica, half front-porch New Orleans. The other 30% are effectively dorky Brits and other pasty Euronerds. There doesn't seem to be a hint of racism, classism or ill-will of any kind. Life moves nice and slow, everybody is super-friendly. Even your most hoodie-wearing tattooed and corn-rowed 18 year old gets up to offer his seat on a crowded bus to any lady over 60. The bus drivers stop just to say 'hi' to their regulars from another route (and still run efficiently on time). Pleasant greetings are legal tender, as is the weird national drink, rum swizzle (think chop suey or scrapple but instead of shady foodstuffs, it's whatever low-grade rum and fruit juices are lying around, mixed together in a clear lemonade soda-fountain). There's a strangely appropriate sense of aintellectualism. Everybody gets along, everybody smiles, nobody bothers with heavy-thinking, and everybody's looking forward to their next rum swizzle. It's like one big Jimmy Buffet concert, except with diversity.

The beaches are so pristine, and the water so clear, it literally makes the Jersey Shore look like an industrial tire-melting complex. You can see your toes, you can see occasional tiny fish, you can body-surf with your eyes open and actually see what a wave looks like from inside (which is cooler than I expected). The notoriously pink beaches are--apparently this time of year--closer to the color of regular sand. But no worries. You can buy a tiny bottle of dyed-pink sand in the gift shop (which my wife did because my marriage is a Tim Burton-themed state fair).

Apparently, navigation of the waters around Bermuda is ridiculously perilous. There were two shipwrecks right in the bay our resort was on, and reportedly hundreds more of captain's fail-logs littered all over the island. Between the unevenly distributed volcanic rock of Bermuda's early formation, and the massive system of coral reef... This was apparently a destination which at one point--you were encouraged to pack your top five favorite albums. Funniest part to me--one of the biggest nautical obstacles are the scores of shipwrecks which themselves further obscure the remote channels of safe passage. Imagine how impossible the Schuylkill expressway would be if all of the car accidents were just left there. At one point there was an entire industry built around new-wreckage salvage. They would lure ships in with big bon-fires and friendly flags, and send small vessels out to rescue the new crash victims (and different vessels to steal all their stuff). If I were a more emo writer, I would wax metaphorically about how these shipwrecks on my belated honeymoon represent past relationship crashes that I need to carefully steer my marriage away from in order to avoid previously discovered hazards. But apparently this blog is popular on punk message boards, so I'll just brag that I did zero guitar practice and move on to the ending.

If you get a chance to go, I have nothing negative to say about it.

Actually, it's very expensive.

That's easy to forget when your resort was 'all-inclusive' and you can pregame the pub with 6 hours of 'free' Parrot Bay. Then go out and drop 20 bucks for 3 house ales (or the seemingly cheapest option--small pitchers of ice-heavy swizzle for like $16). They accept the dollar, but the economy is still based on the British pound. Food (for example) can be roughly one-and-a-half times what it would be back home (and usually is not that great unless you're doing the fancy seafood thing).

One last thing: I ran into a suspicious ammount of other tourists from South Jersey, which isn't as unpleasant as it sounds (as long as you can quiet the paranoid voices in your head about why they're following you). So that's it. It was a lovely trip, and my aniversary present to my wife was that I left my laptop at home. Now I can plug back in to the information swizzle-maker and feel the warm embrace of overstimulation once again...

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