October 18, 2007

An 8-year-old walks into a bar...

While I'm on the theme of, how-old-do-you-have-to-be-to-walk-into-a-bar?, I thought of my brother as a child, in Haiti. His third-grade teacher had asked him to keep a diary/journal describing his days at the beach, as my parents had pulled us out of school to extend our? theirs? (you pick) vacation.

To be precise, this was a time and place when, as father's little dividends, we were taxable write-offs to the company business. So dad, at least, was doing some semblance of business (driving into town, Port-au-Prince, a couple of days to meet with the folks who populated our factory/assembly plant). We, on the other hand, were On The Beach, big time.

My brother's diary/journal read: "got up, went to the bar, had breakfast. Went swimming. Went to the bar and had a drink. Played backgammon. Went to the bar and had lunch. Spent the afternoon at the beach. Went to the bar, had a drink. Ate dinner. Stayed at the bar while my parents had a drink. Came back to the room. Slept." Next day, "got up, went to the bar, had breakfast...." and so on.

My parents had a good laugh after they read his teacher's comments on the saga of the 8-year-old who walked into a bar, early and often.

In Haiti, our lives revolved around the bar. Every meal was served there, under the open-air chacoon; every drink we ordered was noted on a scratchpad my dad would sign by kerosene light after dark. He signed off on sticks counted by five, under the titles rum, Coca-Cola, iced tea, and so forth. Who knows how many drinks, of whatever variety, anyone in my family consumed? We weren't much on keeping track. On The Beach, who cared?

In my late 20s, a room On The Beach, plus 3 meals a day (with Caribbean lobster for dinner), cost $50 U.S. This is why I have never understood the concept of paying real money in the Caribbean, much less the idea of asking for I.D. at the bar.

In Lake Placid, my summer home, two toddlers walked into a bar. In Haiti, one 8-year-old. Perhaps I was 12 at the time, or 11. In any case, when I wanted a drink, I, too, went to the bar. Made perfect sense to me, and to my parents. The only part of humanity that didn't belong in a bar, so far as we were concerned, was that bit that was crying and throwing a tantrum. In our book, the only tantrum throwing was permitted in events that involved adultery and the Other Woman.

Superman's fiancee, my father's cousin, excelled at the tantrum. She was ejected from The Stork Club for fisticuffs in the 1940s, a feat no other woman has achieved. And our society considers Paris Hilton's goings-on a big deal on You Tube? I don't think so.

Makes me long for the day when two toddlers walked into a bar....

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Anonymous Teresa said...

You had me at "our factory/assembly plant." This would seem to predate the age of outsourcing everything, so now I'm wondering about the nature of the family business in the Caribbean. You're a mysterious one, Alice.

1:56 AM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

I was always a little bummed that Haiti was closed off to me. Spent a lot of time on the Dominican side of Hispaniola but things always seemed more interesting on the other side of the fence. Not sure if that was due to my adverse reaction of being surrounded by a bunch of obnoxious beach tourists or the fact that I might have watched "Angelheart" too many times in the mid 80's.

Speaking of the 80's, I'll be traveling up to our old alma mater this weekend for my reunion. Haven't stepped foot on the campus since the day I was graduated. Should be interesting.

11:44 AM  

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