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Scenes from a Holiday

Scenes from a Holiday

The world can be a friendly place.

On the flight back from the Bermuda holiday celebrating an 80th birthday I found myself sitting beside a petite blonde francophone lawyer, a forty something mother of two teenaged children. She continued our pre-flight conversation well nigh to landing two hours later.  I suspect she seized an opportunity to practise her English with an old man who used big words.  On the flight down I also sat next to a Canadian, congenial and helpful but mostly silent throughout the ride, keeping his nose in the Wall Street Journal, as was appropriate for a private equities exec, an expatriate domiciled in New Canaan CT, an area with which I had plenty of personal acquaintance I never got the opportunity to display to him.  But Diane, the Canadian lawyer, pushed our dialogue forward, asking me leading questions which provoked long answers; and before I knew it we were circling LaGuardia for a landing. 

Isn't it interesting how intriguing we find ourselves?

On the crowded bus to Hamilton, Bermuda, from our luxury hotel in mid-island I watched with fascination and not a little incredulity the unrehearsed choreography of seating.  A woman in her fifties paid her fare and made her way down the aisle, and a high school student in uniform stood up from his seat so she could sit down.  A young mother with babe in arms labored past the driver and a man in his sixties, an English visitor to the island I guessed, popped up from his seat so she and her child could sit down.  After a few more of these courtesies, I nudged the woman next to me and asked, "When would it be my turn to give up my seat?"  Without missing a beat she replied, having earlier taken the measure of me, "No one."

The afternoon before we flew home I went to the computer room at the hotel to print out our boarding passes. New computers are always a challenge and this one was no exception.  As I tried to figure out its idiosyncracies l  caught out of the corner of my eye a shadow lurking at the door.  A fidgety woman clearly wanted to use what I was using.  I announced to her, "I'll be at the computer for ten minutes."  Still she hovered.  I charged my user fee to my credit card and found soon thereafter I was going nowhere.  Leaving a manila folder on the printer I went to the concierge for help.  When we returned to the computer room, the hovering lady was sitting at the computer using my dollar for her computing.  In her defense I am assuming she was too dense to understand that it was my dollar funding her Google search.  I expressed my annoyance with mutters about "my dollar you're using," Then I turned away and went with the concierge, a Bermudan named Pennie, to her desk and she printed out the boarding passes.  She seemed amused and surprised by my petulance; and told me that she had earlier sized me up as a sugar plum, not a jalapeno (my metaphors, not hers).  I tipped her, though not overly generous, and for the rest of the day whenever I saw her, she would light up with a big smile and announce in Bermudan accent, "Mr. Howard!"

We may get away from home, but we never get away from ourselves.

At the Italian restaurant, Bacci, one of five managed by the hotel, I ordered a penne dish with sausage.  It had a different texture than similar dishes eaten elsewhere.  I asked the waiter to ask the cook what that different (and appealing) texture was.  The manager came to our table.  He's also the one who chooses the recipes.  His last name is Singh, which I knew made him a Sikh.  But I didn't ask him the obvious question, "What is an Indian doing cooking in an Italian restaurant?"  I asked, from our experience with a Sikh family around the block from us in Valley Stream, "Where's your long hair?" He replied somewhat cryptically, though I thought I understood what he meant, "Long hair carries big responsibilities."  Imagine, in Bermuda in an Italian cuisine restaurant with an Indian chef, driven to that dining spot by Marcus, a scuba-diving skiier from Hamden CT.

At eighty-two I don't have many of my former physical skills, but I'm still pretty good at eating... and chewing the fat (most of which had been cooked out of the sausage, explaining the special texture of the penne dish). 

Friday, the day after the day after we arrived in the island paradise, we went to a four-faced clock dedication at the Town Hall in Hamilton.  By invitation!  Bermudans told us it was the coldest day of their winter, in the high 50's with gale winds. The sun shone brightly, and we found warmth leaning against the building's walls.  Rotary Club International celebrated its 90th year in Bermuda by donating the clock.  One of the prime movers in arranging this dedication was George Cook, former president of Bermuda College.  His wife, Jo Cook, had found us nineteen years earlier at Stonington Inn, owned and operated by the college in one of its missions, the training of islanders in the hospitality business.  Jo spent a day with us on our first trip to Bermuda, and, through the agency of the internet, has kept connected with us in ensuing years.  Following the service of dedication Jo and son Phillip dined with us on pizza at La Trattoria.  We had not previously met either George or Philip... or another son Adrian, a police officer, also present at the ceremony, keeping a hand and close eye on his brother.  Philip, a computer maven with a fey sense of humor, is something of a latter day Lazarus, confounding the medical experts, who had given up on him, but his parents didn't, with his miraculous recovery from strokes at a young age. 

Jo offers an explanation of our long-distance connection in an Email on our return to the States: "It was striking to me to discover just how long ago your previous visit had been especially as the conviviality immediately seemed the same as ever, perhaps an indicator of the rich lives we lead and can readily share." Amen, Jo, and see your much sooner beneath the poinciana.

At the Dockyards on Saturday at the far eastern end of Bermuda we went to the museum; watched the dolphins being fed, read in graphic detail the same bloody racial history that seems to have infected the entire western world at one time or another; dined at the Frog and Onion on nachos; and waited and waited and waited for the bus ride home.  We waited so long because the bus didn't stop where we were waiting.  We found the right place with the help of a jeweler from Bethel CT, John Fulton Matta, an ebullient sort, very likeable, and at sixty-one sufficiently reflective about his life to be interesting.  He too was spending a holiday with his fiancée at the aforesaid luxury hotel.  He complained humorously about the fellow in the room next to his who the night before had a coughing jag so loud the noise penetrated the wall between.  I commiserated and wondered why people don't have the courtesy to stifle it.  When John told me his room number, I realized I was the coughing culprit.  I had gagged on a tiny statin pill that got caught on my tonsils, or where they should be, and rumbled for a good fifteen minutes, which at eleven at night was sure to disrupt a neighbor's reveries. I apologized but didn't bore him with an explanation.

Which prompts an elaboration on the wisdom of Jesus' about splinters and 2 x 4's: be careful with condemnations; you may be indicting yourself.

Two small birthday cakes, one of them delivered by room service, the other a gratis cheese cake with a candle at Bacci, plus constant "Happy birthdays" from everyone privvy to the information on our original order for a four night stay at the hotel, and the mermaid pictured above was well-celebrated.  Here's a cameo of the lady and her consort.


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