Wasted Paradise EXCERPT
I PACKED MY BAG and I took a Greyhound down to Boston. I had never been out of Maine before in my life. Believe it or not just cruising down I-95 to Portland was a big deal back then. I arrived in Boston to find out that Joey was going to fly out the following week. Billy had gone down two days ahead to get rooms for us and to make sure that everything was all set up.
Not having flown before, I was pretty sure the plane wasn't going to go anywhere with over three hundred people on it. Immediately I made for the airport bar and knocked down a few shots. Needless to say I felt pretty hammered when it came time to board the plane and later couldn't believe it when the stewardess asked if I wanted more booze. On the flight down I passed out somewhere over Florida. We landed in Puerto Rico ten hours later. It was ten degrees out when I left Boston, and now it was almost one hundred in Puerto Rico. I was drenched in sweat from head to toe, just walking the two hundred feet from the plane to the airport.
So one more plane and then I'm going to be almost on the equator living on a small tropical island. I couldn't believe it. If I thought that giant plane was scary then it was nothing compared to this little plane that I was on now. It seemed like it was flying just 100 feet off the water for the entire three-hour journey to St. Thomas. The Captain was a Jamaican guy. Having never seen a black pilot before I didn't think the first one was going to be in charge of whether I lived or died. Being he was a Jamaican I just assumed he was already as high as a kite.
The only thing that calmed me down when looking out the window of the plane was the most beautiful coral reef I had ever seen. The water was pale blue with red and yellow corals. The tiny uninhabited islands were three colors of green with a chocolate volcanic rock surrounding them. I finally started to notice they were all flat and drab green. This was from the hurricane that had come through thirty days ago. The islands started to get bigger as we went along. The devastation from the hurricane was incredible. Hundreds of buildings were laying flat on the ground, destroyed by Hugo. The military and emergency services had cleared most of the roads so vehicles could pass. Also electrical power to the majority of residents had been down until a few days ago.
Suddenly the pilot said, "everybody hang on". We descended towards a tiny airstrip that was five times bigger just one month before. I found out later that no big jets had landed there for the last thirty days. This particular island paradise had been closed for business. Holes that were the size of a car were all over the tarmac, along with the debris of what remained of ten to twenty homes from the mountain over looking the airport. I was finally here and noticed right away the skunky, sweet smell of the Island. Just when the skunk smell got too overwhelming it would turn sweet and that was my first smell of the jungle. Something I was going to become quite accustomed to, and all that went with it.
The airport was an old World War two hanger. It had a few make shift businesses, some food stands, car rental places, a bar and airline reps and the like. Alcohol was being given out free by the local rum distillery. I promptly slammed down four or five free smoothies. I did not know at this time drinking and driving was legal.
I went to the local Hertz to pick up my car. All of the glass had been blown out of it from the hurricane. Believe it or not this didn't bother me a whole lot, considering what the area looked like. It was fairly new and it ran well. I get in the car with my map and head off to find Billy.
I rolled up to the first intersection and was almost hit by a truck. This native guy driving the truck gave me the finger and yelled at me to go fuck myself. This pissed me off a bit, I was kind of drunk so rolled with it and went on to the next intersection wondering what is wrong with people around here? This time two cars come at me from two different directions almost crashing into me. I then realize something is drastically wrong, either I am fucked up or everyone else is. While trying to figure out what's going on I see this giant sticker across half the dash that says "DRIVE ON THE LEFT." Oh…right. The next few weeks were a driving lesson from Hell.