Letter from Barbados

[Note: for an explanation on what I was doing in Barbados, please see the previous post.]

February 20, 1984

“WE’RE ALL thinking about you,” she told me. [Houston Post Publisher Doug] Creighton’s secretary, that is. Should I believe her?

Of course I shouldn’t.

She had just called to check on how I was doing, and to see whether I was satisfied with the arrangements worked out here with T.S. Int’l Services Ltd, my new employer.

I told her everything is mighty OK.

What a nice girl.

I talked to [Editor] Peter [O’Sullivan] today, for the first time since I filed my stories. I didn’t even know if they’d run any of them or whether he had decided to throw them all away. I filed four of them, and apparently the only one of the straight news stories they didn’t use was the one I thought was the best one. It was about the political situation in Grenada.

Peter was a baby: he lied and told me he thought the stories were great.

He wants me to do a travel piece on Barbados. I don’t want to do it. I don’t know how. If I do it, do you think I should mention Petite Monique? PM, as we who know her call her, is the belly dancer at the Rockley Resort Club. I saw her last night, the first time I’ve been to the club.

It was horrible. PM did only one piece, an unimpressive one at that, then the resort’s assistant manager took over the mike and went into a long monologue that reminded me of the Bill Murray night club acts on Saturday Night Live. Truly, truly bad.

So I came home and did some work on my second great (unfinished) short story. I’m so good at writing short stories, I amaze myself. As long as I don’t have to finish them. Maybe I can hire someone to do that.

I HAD ANOTHER run-in with Johnny B. today – the third one in two days. It’s getting aggravating. He insists on climbing through the window of my other bedroom and clinging to the mirror frame. He just sits there and glares at me with his green eyes and dares me to do something about it. I usually just get a broom and chase him back out the window, but today he slid into the air-conditioner and I could do nothing.

Finally, I left him alone – or at least he thought I had left him alone. I was behind the door, staring at him through the crack that I’d left between the door and the doorframe. After about ten minutes, he climbed out and back onto the wall. I then pounced on him and chased him out again. This time I closed the window behind him. I’ll be damned if I’ll have a goddamn lizard sitting on my mirror frame!

As you can tell, this house has no screens. None of the houses on the island do. As you can also tell, I’m going crazy here. I spend my days sitting on my patio, saying, “Hi, how ya’ll?” to the Canadian golfers who walk by on their way from one hole to the next. They are all middle-aged, and they all look like Doug Creighton, even the women.

I DON’T KNOW a soul on his island, and I’m not sure I want to know any. Sunday was particularly bad, until I finally called Houston and talked a while with Margaret and Roz. Then I went to the “Gaming Room” where I played the slot machines and the pinball machines. I’m so bored I’m tempted to take up golf, to join all those other fools tramping around all day chasing a little white ball.

It’s not that bad, though. I’d just come off three harrowing days where I was trying to file my stories using the Radio Shack computer and I couldn’t get the computer in Houston to acknowledge my computer’s existence. Worse, because I still don’t have my own phone, I’m using one that’s part of the resort’s phone system, and I have to go through the switchboard. At first they wouldn’t let me place any collect calls until I went down to the desk and paid a $5 fee each time. Even after I got that cleared, it took forever for the operator to answer, then another forever for them to place the call with the overseas operator.

Worse, nobody in Houston seemed to care. I’d tell them to call me if the story came through and they’d try once, get a busy signal and forget about it. Finally I got all of the stories in – but it pretty much ruined my nerves. I couldn’t even leave the apartment because I kept waiting for the calls from Houston that never came.

ON FRIDAY I walked almost all the way downtown – about four miles – and fooled around there for a while. I stopped in briefly at the USIS office to introduce myself to the folks there. They seemed nice enough and I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of them once I figure out my routine. [I never saw them again!]

I also joined a health club that’s about a mile and a half from here, and I walk/run there ever other day. I’ve also started running again, and swimming every day. [I never did go to the health club much after the first couple of weeks!]

SUNDAY I LEAVE on my first major trip – to El Salvador for a week, followed by four days in Costa Rica. I return on March 8, only to go back to El Salvador for another week on the 18th, to be there for the March 25 election.

I’m looking forward to that. I guess I’m too dumb to be scared – although that might change once I get there – and I have this strange feeling that I’m just a toy reporter, pretending to be a foreign correspondent, until I get into a place like El Salvador, where things are happening. I guess I am eager to justify my life of (lonely) luxury.

GRENADA WAS GREAT, but I was there was four months after the real action [the American invasion], so it doesn’t really count. I did have a blast, though. It is absolutely the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen. Truly glorious. I loved it and wanted to stay there forever.

[During the first two days there I stayed at a private house on a hill overlooking the bay. Sitting outside looking at the lights beneath me was beautiful. Until the power went out and there was total darkness. That happened several times each night. My housing was arranged by the company’s Barbados representative, who had told me to go to an address in St. Georges where somebody would take me to the house. When I got to the airport, though, I was faced with immigration forms that demanded to know where I would be staying. Since I had no idea and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of explaining everything, I wrote down, “Holiday Inn,” because I had read that there was a Holiday Inn on the island. When the official read that, he gave me a puzzled look but allowed me to proceed anyway. I later learned that the Holiday Inn had been taken over by the U.S. Army. After the first two nights, I got myself a room – a small cabin on the beach — in the best resort on the island.]

The people of Grenada were so friendly, and so eager to help. I was a little lonely there too, at first, until the last couple of days when I met a young couple from Sweden and an Italian guy who was with them. The Italian kept looking for women “for to fock.”

We had a great time together – when I wasn’t working, of course – and the last night I was there we went out to eat at an English Pub way up in the hills. Afterwards we ended up at a deserted bar where the owner was nice enough to keep serving us beer until we finally decided to leave – way past his bedtime, it was obvious. We talked about everything, from nuclear disarmament to sports. I, of course, got pretty excited about defending baseball while the Swedes kept insisting soccer was best and the horny Italian pushed basketball.

My hangover the next morning was horrendous, and it didn’t help that to get to the airport, I had to take a taxi over a treacherous, winding and bumpy mountain road.

[I made one more trip to Grenada later that year, to cover the first election since the U.S. election. By this time the new airport (built with the help of the Cuban government) had been completed and I didn’t have to fly into the old airport on the other side of the island, which required pilots to weave their way through surrounding mountains to make their approach. This time I wasn’t the only foreign reporter on the island, and by this time I was seen as a veteran by some of the others because I had been to the island before. That was a good feeling.]

About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
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