Friday, April 25, 2008

Can you feel it now that spring has come.
And it's time to live in the scattered sun.
Waiting for the sun
-- The Doors, Waiting For The Sun (1968)

On Wednesday, April 16 Marti & I flew to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, enroute to the nearby windsurfing town of Cabarete. Our friends Teri & Jerry would be tying the knot here at the weekend.

My bride & I rarely visit seaside resorts, particularly in Third World countries. Cities are more our vacation style. To keep it interesting, though, ya gotta mix it up every once in a while. This destination wedding gave us the perfect opportunity.

We checked into our digs at the oceanfront Villa Taina, where a number of other wedding guests are staying. It appears we arrived in the Caribbean just in time for the tropical rainy season, but that's no problemo for the two of us. We didn't come to kite surf. We came to par-tay.

That afternoon Marti & I unpacked, fired up the DSL connection & chilled after our long flight from Paris in CorsairFly torture class. Nice 1968-design 747, sorta like crossing the desert in a restored late '60s Chevy Impala. In the evening we crossed the street to a real deal restaurant called Sandro's, where Marti enjoyed a pork stew with Dominican sauce & I glommed langosta Dominica, a tasty regional lobster dish (pictured).

Our internal clocks askew, we awoke early on Thursday & headed straight for the beach.

Marti made the transition from work nerd to beach bum instantly.

When we first RSVP'd to Teri, she e-mailed to assure us that we'd "love the DR. It's very edgy." Our first impression of Cabarete was that it was somewhere between a Springsteen dusty beach town & the post-apocalyptic refinery enclave in The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2). Lotsa honking car horns, motorcycles whizzing by, sketchy characters on the street. But at 7 a.m. it resembled nothing more than a slowly awakening Wild West outpost.

We made our way back to the hotel for breakfast overlooking the beach. Marti had scheduled a couple of spa sessions for this week, was hoping to get a bikini wax & planned additional pre-wedding pampering. She's all about relaxation on this holiday. Ever the Clintonite, I was looking forward to some extensive thong research. I'm just waiting for the sun.

After brekkie the inclement weather led us to alternative vacation activities. Window shopping. Browsing.

Marti had a few strands of hair braided & beaded on the street. I poked into the Music And Cigar Shop, acquired a couple of bootleg Dominican bachata CDs & negotiated another off-the-books transaction.

Bachata originated as the Dominican Republic's country blues. It's a distinctive music & dance with romantic overtones of lost love & sadness that came out of rural villages but today is more about combining irresistible beats with witty rap.

On our way out of the CD shop we were corralled by a rep for a company called Lifestyle Holidays, one of those vacation clubs with locations throughout the world. It was starting to rain. Though this sort of thing is not really our travel style, we agreed to listen to a pitch & tour a condo at the Ocean Dream resort down the road. Any excuse to down free cocktails at 10:30 in the morning.

Back to the ranch for a download check & a siesta, then a late afternoon stroll down the beach.

Marti & I popped into the Café Pitu for lunch.

We both ordered the catch of the day: dorado (mahi-mahi). I had mine with garlic sauce; Marti's was lemon. Deliciosa!

We met a couple of other wedding invitees at the next table. Shelley & Jonathan had flown in from NYC. Nice peeps.

We headed back for the main drag after our late lunch. Marti went to get her wax job. I poked around.

Here's a team I could play on.

I picked up some munchies at the Supermercado, then parked myself at a sidewalk café, ordered a frosty Presidente & dug the street scene.

I stuck in my Nano earbuds & blasted what's fast becoming my soundtrack for this sojourn: the Promo Only Caribbean Series (May 2008). My faves from this sampler include Luciano & Andrew Tosh's "I'm The Tuffest," "On The Rock (Remix)" by Movado feat. Jay-Z & Ali Campbell of UB40's cover of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."

Marti hit my cell when she was finished with her bikini wax. I finished my beer, went to rejoin her. We booked the same woman to do Marti's hair on Sunday afternoon before the wedding, then returned to the Villa Taina. By the time we were hungry again, I had downloaded two episodes of All My Children for in-room viewing while snacking. Yeah, we're pop culture whores. Got a problem with that?

Mr. Sun busted out bigtime on Friday morning. This was Marti's spa day: full body massage including reflexology & cranial massage, mani-pedi, facial. I put on some SPF 900, grabbed my iPod & a bottle of water, hit the beach.

I encountered the inimitable Jim Bull who, apparently listening to Madonna's Greatest Hits on the iPod in his head, obligingly struck a pose.

I chilled for a couple of hours until Marti texted that she was free to join me. She found me, told me all about her spa sessions, then we took a walk down the beach.

We watched the windsurfers as we dined at one of the many little restaurants that dot the Cabarete oceanfront.

After lunch Marti & I did some shopping on the main drag. Marti bought postcards & stamps, we both purchased flip-flops & I acquired a set of six very cheesy souvenir shot glasses. We stopped for a beer on our way back to the Villa Taina for a little R&R.

That evening we went back to Sandro's for dinner. We both ordered fish. While we were there Marti & I ran into the Happy Couple -- Teri & Jerry were beginning a bar crawl with a few of the wedding krew.

We caught up with them at one of the beach bars. The joints were rockin'.

The wedding weekend was officially under way.

The fish Marti ate Friday night at Sandro's attacked her on Saturday morning. (Mine left me alone.) Both of us were impressed with the rapid house call service from the nearby Servi-Med clinic. By the time I returned to our room from Reception, where I had requested medical assistance, Marti was on the phone with Dr. de los Santos. He arrived within the half hour, diagnosed a case of acute gastroenteritis & furnished my suffering bride with the electrolyte drinks & meds she'd need for a speedy recovery. One thing was certain: Marti would be a dubious starter for that evening's rehearsal dinner.

I spent the day offering whatever TLC I could. Marti slept awhile. Then we watched a couple of movies on HBO. By late evening, though, I got bored with the Florence Nightingale routine, Marti started turning the corner & I decided to shower & go down to the Grill 15 to see if the rehearsal party was still going on.

I arrived in time for the after party. Jerry was putting Teri into a taxi back to their digs, but he & a few hardcores were still in the game. Here he is with Merch magnate Adam.

The Three Stooges make a new friend.

I got a little trashed drinking straight rum with the other nighthawks, but not before Jerry snagged me a floral table decoration to bring home to my patient. Jerry also hooked me up with a couple of roast pork sandwiches from a street vendor to take back to the room. I was glad I went. It was a fun hang & I wound up with a tasty little rehearsal dinner of my own.

Sunday morning. April 20, 2008. Teri would be making an honest man of Jerry later that day. My bride rallied like the champ she is. She accompanied me to breakfast, albeit tea, dry toast & fruit on her part. We chilled in the shade for a couple of hours, then started getting ready to go to the wedding.

Luci did Marti's hair.

We boarded the Teri & Jerry Express to Natura Cabanas, where the nuptials were to take place.

Natura Cabanas.

Pretty bridesmaids all in a row.

Teri's grandmother, stepmom & Team Jerry.

Here comes the bride.

El smoochero grande.

With our friends Craig & Lucy at the reception.

The first of two bands that played for us. There was also a rockin’ electric bachata group.

Oops. The Haitian goddesses aren't playing according to Official Wedding Protocol. Why, they're interloping on the Happy Couple's First Dance. Look how dismayed Jerry looks behind this turn of events. Not to worry. The wedding planner nazi has pegged 'em & is about to kick their black asses off the dance floor. When I mentioned later that he was kind of a fuckwit to have done that, the wedding planner insisted he was following orders. Then he went whining to Jerry that I'd dissed him. Waaaaaah. Wedding planners. I guess in some instances they’re a necessary evil. Like Jaguar mechanics. But they ain’t that high on my food chain.

Thai kicks it with his grandmother.

Teri. Beautiful Bride extraordinaire. Not only did she plan this fab destination wedding -- wherein we all got to share the honeymoon -- but she accomplished it while writing her master's thesis! Jerry's one lucky barefoot folksinger.

Well actually it should be Chillin' Like Columbus, he's the explorer who discovered this place in 1492. Chris named it Little Spain & described it as the most beautiful island in the world. One third of Hispaniola's 870-mile coastline is dotted with unspoiled white sand beaches & inviting clear waters. And let's not forget those beckoning bikinis.

The wedding over, our mission on this sunny Monday morning was to spend as much q-time as possible in the lounge chairs a few steps in the direction of Greenland from our new headquarters: the tiki bar at the Villa Taina.

When basking under the palms became boring, Marti & I walked along the shore in search of a restaurant for lunch.

We ran into Jerry's dad (a world-reknowned expert in marine science), Jerry's daughter Chae & her boyfriend Tyrone on the deck of a beachfront resto called Blu. Dr. Joseph recommended the fish & chips, but in light of Marti's recent encounter with fish of the food poisoning kind, she opted for a hamburger. I ordered La Bandera ("The Flag").

La Bandera is the most popular Dominican speciality, usually consisting of stewed meat served with rice, red beans (habichuelas), fried plantains & salad. Blu's version featured grilled chicken breast in lieu of the stewed pork or goat. The aforementioned items are usually separated into quadrants on the plate, symbolizing the Dominican flag.

Later that evening I ran into Craig Greenberg, one of the wedding guests who is also a singer-songwriter from NYC. He invited us to join a large krew who were heading out to find dinner together. Marti & I decided we'd rather keep on the low. We snacked on munchies in our room while I screened The Other Boleyn Girl on my laptop. Fortunately, my customary response to historical costume drama kicked in. Before you could say "How hot is Scarlett Johansson," I fell into a long-overdue deep sleep.

Another day in Paradise. Tuesday started off a lot like Monday.

My bride & I lounged on the beach, fending off traveling salespersons offering everything from massages to hair braiding to costume jewelry to vacation condominia to fresh fruit.

Not having read a newspaper in days, I kicked down the equivalent of seven worthless Bush dollars for the International Edition of The Miami Herald.

Later at the bar Marti & I hooked up with Elizabeth & Aaron, a couple of Red Sox fans from Needham, Mass. Forget Red Sox Nation; this is Red Sox Planet! These folks had just arrived to help celebrate Aaron's parents' milestone wedding anniversary.

It was our last night in the DR. We dressed up a bit & went to dinner at the Grill 15.

Both of us had missed the rehearsal dinner here the previous Saturday night due to Marti's malady.

We shared a huge 4-pound grilled lobster, which was accompanied by grilled veggies & moro (the rice & beans mix).

Alex, our genial host, recommended an icy cold Chilean Chardonnay to help wash down the crustacean.

Lobstah. Wine. Marti was back in action.

I sat back & fired up a ginormous stogie. The DR is celebrated for its tasty combustibles. There is evidence of Caribbean folk smoking cigars dating back to the 10th century: a ceramic vessel illustrated with a figure of a man smoking a primitive cigar was discovered long ago at a Mayan archaeological site in Uaxactún, Guatemala. Props go to good old Chris Columbus for introducing the concept of smoking to Europe. The Eurotrashies certainly ran with that ball, don'tcha think?

After dinner we strolled down the beachfront toward our hotel, figuring we'd grab a digestivo along the way.

Outside the Bambu bar we encountered Chae & Tyrone, along with Teri, Jerry & few of the other unusual suspects.

We hung out there for a while. I chatted with Jason, spoke French with Beatrice, then regaled her squeeze Dino -- an art collector -- with the spilled-milk story of the Andy Warhol screenprint I almost bought 30 years ago.

It was 1978. Greenwich Village. Marti & I were just starting out & had no money. We wandered into a gallery that was selling 43.5" x 29" Warhol portraits of Mick Jagger, from a series of 250 prints, signed by both Andy & Mick -- for a mere $1100. Fuck. It might as well have been $50,000. If you don't have the eleven C-notes in your pocket, it simply don't matter. Would have been sweet hanging over the sofa all these years, though.

What serendipity to run into this gang on our last night in Cabarete. Jerry & I slipped off to the nearby La Costa Bar for a farewell shot of rum. We thanked him & Teri again for including us in their nuptial extravaganza. This was a place Marti & I would likely never have visited on our own & we'd enjoyed an absolutely marvelous week.

We squeezed in a bit more sun & sand on departure day.

I was glad we'd spent a hour or so the previous afternoon doing the bulk of our packing. It left us free to spend our last few hours on the island basking rather than stressing.

A farewell Presidente.

When the time came to drive to the airport, Marti noticed the MLB label on the back of our taxi driver's cap. He was a homegrown fan of Los Red Sox.

On the ride to Puerto Plata, Jose & I sang the praises of the DR's most heralded exports: Big Papi & Manny Ramirez.

Marti slept during the flight home. I stayed up all night listening to my 'Pod & discman, watched an episode of John Adams on my laptop. But mostly I observed all the knucklehead Frenchies aboard, lidded in straw hats, bearing giant rolls of art primitif, still clad in flip-flops & shorts as they headed for a 42°F early morning arrival at Orly.

One woman had snagged a wretched-looking palm bark & seashell-studded lampshade. Kitsch maximum. I'm sure it'll be all the rage back home in Crapaud-sur-Seine.

As I write this on Friday afternoon -- Greek Orthodox Good Friday -- the temp is 63° & the sun is shining on the City of Light.

If at some point ya gotta come home from vacation, this is as good a place to land as any.

1 comment :

  1. Hello, I just want to say I found your blog by mistake as I googled the Dominican Flag and came upon your blog spot. Well I must say what a find it was (although I did skip all the way to the bottom where you blog about the D.R.)anyway I am from the Dominican Republic and I dont think I could have done a better job of describing my Island as beautifully as you did. I read all the entries pertaining to the D.R. and really just wanted to let you know it was a fun read. You make a beautiful couple and are really interesting people. I love your wit and wonderful sense of humor and hope you never lose either one. I wish you both good luck in everything that you do and may you find many many more interesting places to visit. and blog about lol... Buena Suerte!!!