It’s been some time, over two months actually, that I’ve written anything at all. I’m not counting emails or Skype messages. And as a writer, that’s not always an easy thing. What’s stopping me, you might ask? Maybe it’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau that’s been sticking in my mind: “How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Maybe it’s writer’s block. Maybe I feel, with the fourteen titles I’ve written, I’ve said all that I wanted to say. Maybe the furious pace I kept previously finally burned my bulb and I needed a break from the craft. A long break.
If I sit down and analyze it all, Thoreau’s quote leaps to the forefront. I needed to stand up and live a little, get to know more people and interact with characters of all traits, shapes and sizes. Well, I have to admit, since my arrival here November 23rd, I’ve been doing a lot of living. Actually I think I was trying to compensate for the isolated and sometimes lonely existence on my acreage in Prince Edward Island. There I often would not speak to a soul for days; where here I’m hard-pressed to sit down at a table in a beach bar and in less than fifteen minutes be surrounded by friends and acquaintances. Over copious amounts of booze, the ocean waves slapping the sand not fifty feet in front of me, I can indeed observe human nature first-hand, sometimes at its highest point and others at its most debauched, lascivious, crazy and corrupt.
And the things I’ve seen. Slow cons where individuals calculate meticulously how to extort money from foreigners and locals alike. People who initially appear as models of civility and honesty magically transforming into money-sucking predators or just complete clown. Fast cons where the person only knows you for a day or two then suddenly one or all of her children is very sick or indeed terminally ill. But, alas, 2000 pesos of your hard-earned money instantly cures them of whatever ails them.
It’s the beginning. I’ve seen so-called mechanics tamper with expat automobiles that have been parked outside of bars. In one example, a Dominican man. late at night, actually approached us as we were leaving a seedy bar in one of the seediest neighborhoods in Puerto Plata, announcing, “Sir, if your car doesn’t start, by the way, I just happen to be a mechanic.” Luckily we were able to talk our way out of that one, and the kind and able-bodied mechanic reconnected the battery without charging us and off we went into the blackness and bleakness that is sometimes Puerto Plata.
“Only six more bars to go, ” I slurr to my friend. “And certainly no less than four.”
I’ve seen drunk foreigners fall over pissing themselves at one in the afternoon. Shitfaced people falling off beach chairs mid-afternoon. Drunk people mid-afternoon staggering aimlessly back to their apartments after a morning beer-pounding session. Loud and obnoxious banter. Fistfights. People getting banned from bars. People getting tossed from bars. The police driving down a main road weaving near-uncontrollably, obviously very drunk. Police pulling people over on the roads, whom they are acquainted with, and asking for 500 pesos for a bottle of rum. In at least half of these incidents, the cops were already hammered out of their minds.
Stuck In The Middle With You” lyrics by Stealers Wheel often pop into my head:
Clowns to the left of me
jokers to the right
here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
And I wonder, am I the clown, the joker or the one stuck in the middle.
I’ve heard about the robberies. Read about the sixteen-odd people who died in the Puerto Plata area over Christmas and New Year’s, some due to fire, drunk driving collisions (it seems to be a national sport around here), alcohol overdose, drug overdose, violent stabbings and robberies; on and on it goes.
So what the hell am I doing here? I seem to highlight the bad, but it isn’t all like that. I have many loyal friends here who would drop everything in a heartbeat if I ever needed their help. I’ve participated in many of these drunken binges. I’ve gone out on tears with my friends, and we’ve visited multiple bars, sometimes arriving home at six or seven in the morning; and sometimes, I daresay, even later. As a writer, I live life on the fringe. It’s just my personality. It’s a work-hard, play-hard outlook, and it’s part of who I am. Eccentric is a word that comes to mind but probably doesn’t exactly fit. A little crazy maybe. Who knows? Who isn’t a little odd in their own way?
In spite of all the dangerous situations I sometimes find myself in, I’ve had a ton of fun here. I’ve probably laughed more in the last two months than I have in the last two years. I just have to learn to pace myself a little better is all. Last week I actually prayed for rain to give me an opportunity to gather myself, recuperate, and get my act together. Well, maybe there is a god. We’ve just had three days of torrential rain and it has forced me inside to gather my thoughts and evaluate the last two months. In some ways, I think I lost myself and now the challenge is to find myself. But at least I’m enjoying the ride, so far I’ve stayed relatively uninjured, and I can say that I’ve really lived. Yes, really stood up to live, even though I may have fallen down once or twice.
Which brings me back to what I thought was the point of the post. Writing. Well, I’m doing it now, so at least that’s a start. Sometimes I think I want to write about life here. Sometimes I think I should call the book, akin to Hunter S.Thompson’s Rum Diaries, The Brugal Diaries, after the brand of rum I often drink. Other times I think I should just write another wild post-apocalyptic tale and draw from my experiences here to incorporate into the book. In any event, there are ideas beginning to jell in what’s left of my gray matter.
In any event, at least I can’t say I haven’t lived. I mean really lived. Before I left Prince Edward Island, I wanted to experience life in a way that was exciting, dangerous, and on the edge. Mission accomplished. Let’s see what the future brings. In the meantime, it’s still raining. God, I love the rain. 🙂