Friday, January 28, 2005

In the Loupe, Chapter 15

So I'm walking along on my way to school, humming happily to myself about Napoleon and his soldiers (a good walking song, but I don't know the end so I have to sing it in an irritating three-line loop), and I cut through the dirt path shortcut where you have to be careful not to slip and tumble down on the rocks. Not quite careful enough, I lose my balance but can't fall backwards because my guitar's on my back, so I jump down a few steps and hop here and there until I land with solid footing, at which point something catches my eye: there is a cat a foot and a half away, and it's not moving. Why isn't the cat moving, I ask myself; is it asleep? Isn't it weird for a cat to be ----- and then a wave of nausea rises up in my apparently weak stomach as I see the flies and the rotting bits and the bloated bits and I run out of the path so quickly that I actually - literally, as in a Hollywood romantic comedy - collide with Jean-Louis, the school custodian who thinks I'm too nice with the kids. (Why do you have a guitar and not a striking rod? Crazy foreigner.)

Interestingly, what impresses the kids is that I could be so white; they've never actually seen the colour drained out of someone's face. The dead cat, which most of them passed on their way to school (as well as the other one which was apparently further up the path - aren't dead cats pretty rare? What the hell is going on here?), doesn't faze them in the least. Do they have zero sense of "that's really disturbing," after their pig-killings and similar, or am I just excessively wimpy? At any rate, add "carcass removal" to my ever-growing list of Jobs-That-Just-Aren't-For-Me. (And add 'carcass' to my list of Words-That-I-Just-Don't-Think-I-Ever-Spell-Right.)

On a brighter note (brighter than dead cats? the hell you say!), I have finally seen that there is, in fact, night activity in Guadeloupe, contrary to my first impression. I realize, of course, that being often anti-social and preferring quiet candle evenings to having strangers bump and grind against me in a sweaty club, I am entirely unqualified to comment on a place's nightlife. Just as you won't ask a vegan if there's a good showing of steak houses in town, you won't ask Captain Tea-and-Cards for the latest hot spots and their passwords.

However. If you go out after 6 pm on a weekday or after 2 pm on the week-end, you will be alone. As in the beginning of an apocalyptic, secret-killer-disease-got-everyone-but-the-hero-and-the-bad-guy movie, the streets are empty and look recently lived in but certainly not welcoming. A stray piece of paper blows quietly across a roundabout, somewhere you hear a door slam. The all-night zouk parties and carnaval celebrations are the obvious exceptions, but as they happen in somebody's house, they don't inspire people to wander the city strees, so that if you walk the dog at 7:30 pm, people worry that you're a young girl walking alone so late.

There are big tourist towns, though, like Gosier, where there are strips of hotels and casinos, bars and restaurants. Franck - a pianist - was playing in one of these clubs with a cranky reggae group - seriously, a more crotchety bunch of old rasta men you will not easily find - so I had my first taste of a full parking lot and young people socializing. And guess how I felt about it.

I live in such a sleepy town, and I like to make fun of how it's so dead at night, but yowza! Keep those tourists away from me! If there's one thing I hate, it turns out, it's a bar full of drunk tourists who are trying to be cool and island-vibey and hit on - oh, I don't know, let's say, FRANCK. (Though, honestly, I didn't pay too much attention to it because I was too busy peeling men's hands off of my own body to worry about the slimy just-want-to-get-laid-in-the-Caribbean ladies who were prowling around Ol' Blue Eyes) (so named after Frank Sinatra, who couldn't be any further from Franck if he tried - don't you think that's PARTICULARLY funny? I think it's the best thing I ever came up with, but no one else seems to care.)

And all the fake air-kissing, and the irritating hippie dancing... luckily, Franck and I got our babyfoot (fooze-ball?) asses kicked by a pair of smarmy Spaniards, which made us both feel great. And even MORE luckily, his ex-girlfriend showed up and he was completely freaked out and moody and playing badly and man, it was the best night ever! I can't wait to go back to Gosier, if only for the memories. Hooray!

Fortunately, the next night's gig was in Bouillante, as sleepy as Basse-Terre and then some, so the crowd was a whole bunch of locals who heard the music and came down to see what was going on. (No ex-girlfriend in sight.) They played better and with much more variety than they were allowed for the tourists ("do you know any Bob Marley?" "hey, do you know any Bob Marley?" "you guys are awesome - listen, do you know any Bob Marley?") so there was lots of soca and zouk and beguine and it was a moving and shaking kind of night. Half the crowd played with them at some point or another, either reggae-rapping into the mic or hauling a ka drum out of the car to join in (rather than First Aid kits or spare tires, the general Gwada population always has an extra drum ready for action), and by three o'clock in the morning, everyone was dancing and singing and crying. Really, lots of crying - drunk? Moved by the music? Dead cat behind the bar? Hard to say. Either way, a good, good time.

And-that's-what's-new-on-my-end. (Since it's such a hyphenated entry, why stop now, you know?)


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