Saturday, September 29, 2007

Crooked Island, Bahamas

Wind: SE 10 knots, gray and overcast

Tonight we succumbed to the budgetary temptation of Pokyman’s, unfortunately. Or fortunately, as things may go. It’s worth it for our sanity to get out somewhat, rather than be cooped up alone in an empty building with each other and nothing else. Gary was there, and we haven’t seen him in ages. I had also make Pokyman a CD of country music, as he had requested, having little else to do but play around with iTunes on my computer.

Blackjack was there, too, waiting on the mailboat, and we felt a little guilty for not visiting him in so long. Then again, all we have for transportation (or “tranz” as they call it on the island), is the decrepit muffler-less GMC, meaning that if we go out the whole neighborhood knows it. Gas is more than $5 a gallon here (be grateful for your US government subsidies, oh ye Americans), and just to get to Pokyman’s we spent $10 on two gallons of gas. Yikes. Blackjack’s is a lot farther along, and we’re always fearful that the truck, or either of its two formerly flat and now repaired tires, could go.

So each excursion is an adventure. Still, Pokyman was thrilled with my CD, and popped it in his player right away, where my Hank Williams and Johnny Cash fit in nicely among his calypso, rake-and-scrape, and obscure Jamaican reggae. Everyone down here claims to love country music and hate hip-hop, a rather strange inversion of our racial stereotypes. I keep wanting to defend hip-hop, of which I am a fan, and make a CD of classic old-school Biggie and some of the better Eminem, but I just don’t think they dig the gangsta rap or thug life down here. The younger generation does a little, and I’m sure they do in Nassau, but out here is the country. People are much more comfortable with songs about rural roads and lost love than they are with bling and AK-47s. We commonly hear songs by Bryan Adams and Faith Hill at the local hotspots, and everyone, even the hardest-core rasta, is a huge Mariah Carey fan.

One of the oddest things about being here is seeing the ways in which American popular culture intersects with Bahamian life. Almost every time we go out, there’s a bootleg American movie in the DVD player, generally one with big explosions and scantily clad blonde women and fast cars. The other week while we were out we saw “Rules of Engagement,” one of those jingoistic war movies that presents the culture clash between the western and Arab worlds. They never have the sound on, so I try to interpret the plot while listening to eardrum-shattering junkanoo music. Catching flashes of American flag and the Pepsi product placement while eating conch and watching people dance rake-and-scrape is surreal. Tonight was a new Bruce Willis movie I had never heard of, co-starring (to my enjoyment) the Apple dude from those commercials, and involving lots of computer hacking, explosions, and SUV chases. Gary first claimed it was another Die Hard sequel, which I didn’t find that hard to believe, but later he said it was called “Hard to Kill.” Well, hey. Bruce Willis knows when he has a good thing going.

The most amusing part was listening to Gary talk celebrity gossip. Gary, our good friend who also works on the big house, is a dead ringer for Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with an elegant head of mid-back-length dreadlocks, a King Calaisse medallion worn constantly around his neck, and somewhat fey hand gestures. He starts drinking gin at seven in the morning, and he’s known to have a way with other men’s wives. If you squint, you could swear he’s Johnny Depp, or at least the real-life descendant of a Tortuga buccaneer. I wouldn’t be surprised if ole Johnny ran into Gary at a bar somewhere and used him for inspiration.

So when Gary began to talk, in detail, about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s relationship, and enumerate by name each of their four children, it was more than a little bizarre. He went on to explain to us that Angelina Jolie was in fact Jon Voight’s daughter. I don’t even know that I’ve ever seen a Jon Voight movie, but I do know he’s famous for the sixties classic Midnight Cowboy, which I sincerely doubt Gary has ever seen. He was telling all this to Pokyman, who was listening intently, elbow crooked, but clearly had no idea who Jon Voight was. So Gary says, “You know. He was in Anaconda.”

“Ah,” says Pokyman. “Anaconda.”

The thought that people from a completely alien culture could be exploring the intricacies of celebrity parentage, using as reference points the purest dreck from the bottom of the Hollywood barrel, was hilarious and sobering at the same time. Later, Gary went on to claim that Jon Voight was in fact Jennifer Lopez’s father, not Angelina Jolie’s. I think he had had another couple of half-pints of gin at that point. We left, eventually, shaking our heads. I’m well aware of American cultural imperialism, but I always hope it’s the best of our culture that trickles down, not the worst. I suppose I should know better.

No comments: