Monday, January 12, 2009

bahamas > nyc

By Pauly
New York City

It had been a while since I cavorted around the Islands with people of ill repute. Decades have passed since my Island hopping days. Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas were just a short flight away from New York City or Georgia. Back then, I was a thrill seeker looking for adventure, a cheap buzz, and even cheaper women. But now, I was heading back down to the warmth of the Caribbean for a work assignment. A working holiday, if you will.

I made the mistake and failed in an attempt to maintain a speedy drinking pace with the Germans. One of my German colleagues entertained us with tales about interviewing Bob Dylan for a radio show decades ago after a concert in Germany. The guy had breakfast with Dylan for fucks sake. When he offered me a cigar I could not decline his generosity.

Neil, photographer from London, and I wandered through a labyrinth of slot machines in the casino. It was late and we were in search of Otis. We eventually found him sitting at a blackjack table getting cold decked by a dealer who resembled the Haitian from Heroes. He was down to his last two green chips. I encouraged him to bet it all. He was due for a rush. And then it happened. Otis pushed one hand but one the next four or five. He dodged a blackjack from the dealer on one hand and managed to run his chips back up to even.

"Breaking even is better than winning. Time to cash out," I said.

Otis agreed and left the table. The next thing I know, a surly bouncer unlatched a rope and ushered us up a stairwell and inside a club. Yeah, I ended up at a club at 3am... with Otis. If you were to pick the last place at the Atlantis Resort where I’d be (aside the chapel) it would be the nightclub. Even when I was younger, I never particularly cared for that scene. I only went because someone gave me a wristband that gave me free entrance to the club and access to the VIP area.

Otis and I both enjoy knocking back a few brews but club guys we are not. However, it was one of the few places still open and serving booze. I have purposely avoided places like that but sometimes you gotta go with the flow. With the exception of two nights that we were in the Bahamas, we managed to close down at least one bar... every night.

I slipped out of the club. Too many friends to say goodbye to with the music blaring too loud to have any sort of meaningful farewell. And of course there were too many people to persuade me to keep on partying until the sun came up. I did that all week. I did that all month. Heck, I've been doing that for half of my life.

We all had several hundred dollars left on our spending allowances for the trip and ever since the tournament ended, the beers and cocktails flowed at a rapid pace. It was hard to keep up and I was double-fisting Kalik's most of the night. But the time had come for the partying to end. I wanted to wind down the rest of the night and rage solo before I settle down into some quiet refection, with the only sounds being the waves, and the only light being the illumination of the moon.

I sleep with the terrace door wide open so I can hear the waves roll up on the beach as I drift off to sleep. It'also the first thing that wafts into my ears. I have been constantly on the move the last half decade or so and often wake up disoriented in an uncomfortable bed, in a unfamiliar room, in God knows where and I freak out because of temporary amnesia. The waves were a quick reminder that I was in the Bahamas.

The wake up call shook me from a weak slumber. I had passed out a little after sunrise and was exhausted. It took me twenty minutes before I motivated and rolled out of bed. I packed my gear in less than fifteen minutes and glanced at two different bills that were slid under my door. One was the bill for the actual room and the other was my total room service, minibar, and food bill. I only spent half of my allotted per diem, but that did not include the drinks from the night before. I figured that I was in the clear and would be able to escape without having to dig into my own pocket.

The hangover didn't hit me until I was about to leave my room. I slung one bag over my shoulder and felt the nauseous pains rattling around my body. I have been in this position many times before… checking out of a hotel while completely hungover and not knowing if I'd puke up bile or shit my pants. It's a fleeting nightmare that comes with the territory.

I exited the room and a maid stood in the hallway next to her cart.

"Did you like it?" she said.

Like what?

"Your trip. Was it good?"

Well of course, that goes without saying. Except for the hangover part. I struck a deal for a ride to the airport. The driver wanted $30 and I got her down to $20 plus a tip. She was short. Very short. And looked like the mother from What's Happening. She wore a bright green jacket and matching skirt and drove a big van with four rows of seats. I hopped in the back row with a couple from France who sat in the second row. We lazily made the trek off of Paradise Island over the eyesore slab of concrete that makes up two bridge expanses that connect the main island to Paradise.

Traffic was heavy on Elizabeth Street, a two lane winding road that was cluttered with limousines and airport vans. It was rush hour for tourists since it was peak checkout time and hordes of tourists needed to be herded to the airport. We eventually converged on Bay Street, the main drag on Nassau.

My driver pointed out Anna Nicole Smith's grave. The French couple gave each other a bewildered look, like they should know who that is, but don't. Hey, it's not like ANS was Simone de Beauvior. She was a tramp, a famous one at that, and unleashed a karmic path of doom. The gold digger dug her own grave and became a tourists attraction for the ravenous appetite of the many visitors who got bored of swimming with dolphins. Alas, her end was in the Bahamas and we whizzed by on the way to the airport.

Aside from pointing out the grave, my driver was silent. Benjo's cab driver was a lot more interesting. When he was picked up at the airport last weekend, the guy asked him if he preferred gin or rum. Then the taxi driver poured himself a huge glass of gin into a cup… while driving. Benjo was pissed that he wasn't offered any. When Otis arrived his cab driver told him about how to avoid getting rolled by hookers who pull the old, "You're too big and hurting me routine."

I thought that's what lube is for?

Bahamas is on the fringe of the Bermuda Triangle and infected by Island Time where the locals and service people shuffle along at a snail's pace whether it's checking you into a hotel, or bringing you food, or while waiting in various lines at the airport. The first line was to check into JetBlue. That was the fastest moving line of the day. Next up was a first round of security. I managed to cut the lengthy line by sheer accident. I took advantage of the situation and ended up jumping in front of EPT hostess Kara Scott.

"You cutting me, Pauly?" she said with a smile.

I shot her a hungover look and she winked and let me pass. I survived two lines and then came the dreaded customs/immigration line which you have to clear before you get on your flight so when you land in the States, you can simply exit. Immigration was held back by all the international passengers who needed to have their palms scanned. I saw one of Benjo's colleagues get harassed by the overzealous border guards.

Lucky for us, someone figured out that they needed to open a US Passports ONLY line. Lucky for me, I was one if the first persons picked out of the long line to get funneled to the new line. I saved a good forty-five minutes.

The immigration guy grilled me about how much money I had. He kept asking if I had more than $10,000.

"How much do you have?"

A couple of grand.

"How much exactly is a couple a ground?"

Two or three.

"I'll ask you one last time, how much exactly do you have on you?"

$2,870. I failed to mention the Euros I had on me, but he never inquired about those.

I stood in a second security line and when I survived that I was finally inside the departure area. I wandered around the small and crowded gates. I spotted a handful of poker pros heading out. Some where off to the next stop on the tour whether it was Mississippi, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, or even Las Vegas. Chad Brown, Ylon Schwartz, Brian Townsend, and Marcel Luske milled around the dozens and dozens of hungover and sunburned souls on vacation.

The food court resembled the cafeteria in high school with the worst possible food available on the island. I was starving and opted for a bag of Amos cookies and as much water as I could drink to stave off the second wave of the hangover. The filthy floor was sticky and I positioned myself at a table behind a pole so no one I knew would stop by and bother me. I wanted to zone out and write a bit while the Giants/Eagles playoff game was on a small TV above the cashier in the food court. The insufferably annoying voice of Joe Buck echoes through the food court as I frantically scramble to organize all these tattered thoughts and whip them up into one cohesive post.

What the fuck is in a Bahama Mama anyway?

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