Originally posted: August 18, 2013 at 12:24pm
Flight date August 17, 2013
FL 350 (35,000 feet)
Speed: 550 mph
Time: 4:15 PM
United Airlines flight 1463 had barreled down the runway after a hell on earth experience prior to departure. Everything had been in chaos at Hewanorra airport. As the pilot pushed the throttles full forward the engines responded quickly and I sunk into my seat due to thrust induced by Jet A1 fuel. St. Lucia quickly disappeared into the distance as we hurtled towards the heavens. Seated in 25A I had a window view of the terminal rushing by the left of the aircraft. Still on the ground were American Airlines, US Airways, Delta, JetBlue, and over on the extreme end of the parking apron was the Taiwanese president’s Boeing 747 with a great big flower on its tail. President Ma certainly caused a stir during his visit (but on to that another time).
The pouch in the seat in front of me has the usual assortment of in-flight reading material: Boeing B737-800/900 safety booklet, the United Airlines Hemisphere magazine headlining ‘Three Perfect Days –Alaska.' The picture which graced the cover must have been taken from a helicopter, and was that of a snow covered landscape with running elk. Don’t they call them caribou up Canada? The United Sky Mall shopping magazine was also in the mix. Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll get my deals from eBay or Amazon.
It is at times like this, on the return flight, when one is usually inundated with thoughts of a vacation just concluded. I was no exception. At 35,000 feet with nothing else to do the previous five weeks flashed through my mind like a fast forwarding VHS tape gone wild. Visions of being a passenger on the inaugural United flight to St. Lucia; the Monday and Tuesday carnival jump up through the streets of Castries and all those pictures I took; meeting so many friends once again; La Rose; an SJC graduating class 25th anniversary reunion; Miss Gros Islet; my underwater mission as Agent 009 Nobbie Bond; and mangoes. All those damn blasted mangoes. I mean seriously!
Mangoes were a part of every day. I picked them early each day from the trees which spotted the landscape where I stayed. Pon, Graham, Tin Kwem…..ahhhhhhhhhhh. These mangoes kept me sane, I believe. I was spared the affliction which is commonly known as VAT-induced-vap. It is a condition which afflicts many St. Lucians who become more and more enraged as they pay VAT on items they purchase throughout the day. Usually by 4 pm they’re ready to eat you (an expression used by St. Lucians to mean that a person has become wild enough to eat you in a rage). I was at least spared contracting that affliction as any glass of juice did not give the feeling of swallowing VAT at every gulp. This year’s harvest was bountiful, sweet, and VAT free. I continue to be amazed at how many foreign fruit drinks are on our supermarket shelves.
Notwithstanding all these memorable recollections on my more than mile high flight my mind also twists around some of the unsavoury visions of my stay. The stray dogs of Vieux Fort are a sight to behold, especially near the roundabout /bus stand area (at times it seemed like dogs outnumbered people). The jumbies/crackheads of Castries who come out at night, enmasse, like so many ghouls in ‘Living Dead’ or ‘Night of the Undead’ movies. Have you ever ventured out after dark, and passed near Kentucky Fried Chicken adjacent to the Cathedral on Micoud Street? One’s first instinct is to run for the hills as the jumbies approach you, on exit, like a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video. Pavee’ and The Morne are conveniently close. The garbage of Castries is a disgrace. Not that garbage is anything other than that anyway.
A trip to the Castries Market area after dark is a sight to behold. Having been named one of the most intriguing outdoor markets of the world the filth and refuse discarded in plain view with wild abandon is nothing short of colossal. And the skeletons of Castries! By night the city becomes a veritable bone yard; a cemetery. Strewn across the streets of the city are the carcasses of makeshift constructions used during the day for sidewalk vending. They follow no rhyme or reason in their construction.Mismatched pieces of wood, pieces of tarpaulin, galvanize, plastic, wrought iron, all put together by some sidewalk engineer with rope, nails, welding, or gravity. These monstrosities occupy at least fifty percent of the sidewalk space forcing pedestrians to walk in the street; a dangerous undertaking. Anytime after lunch will catch many of the mostly women vendors who occupy these out of code traps fast asleep; and you thought siestas were only a thing of Spain. With mouths involuntarily hanging open, heads lolling to a side, and bavay dripping out the corner of their mouths (sometimes creating a very wet spot on their blouse), many of these vendors are caught in full public view.And just as they suddenly arrived in the mornings, they are gone by night. It’s like one minute they are there, and the next they’ve vanished leaving behind the carcasses of their edifices to stand hopelessly waiting for another day when their nakedness will be covered once again.
What’s this? A little turbulence, a wide graceful climbing turn, and a bathroom break. Looking back to the rear of the cabin I see a line for the bathroom, and my two elderly visitor seat mates are asleep.They have me boxed in. Damnit! Don’t think about it Nobbie you really don’t have to pee; mind over matter. Well in this case it turned out to be too much matter. To hell with it I’m waking them up.
Eventually I made it past my slumbering friends and on my return had a conversation with Bob who was now awake. We spoke about politics, Mexicans, trade, the US auto industry, and crooked politicians. Bob lives in New Jersey and was returning home after a wonderful trip to St. Lucia. He says Bermuda will be his next vacation spot next year. Ever heard of the Bermuda Triangle Bob? At least Bob helped pass the remaining forty five minutes of flight time.
As we began our descent into New York airspace I captured some sunset shots. The landing was a bit hard, but we made it. And so, one chapter ends and another begins in the life of Secret Agent 009 Nobbie Bond.