PollyAnna or Prophet

    I finally saw Dallas Buyers Club as a birthday day.  We missed the first few minutes of the movie while getting lost in Palm Beach.  I parked for free at the Hyatt lot,  a good find but it was four long blocks to our destination. I had a great rib dinner with beans and chocolate pecan pie and a blues musician playing mostly sixties covers in the background.  
    Matthew is not beautiful anymore as a gaunt skinny dude but now he can be taken seriously and he is a mighty good actor.  Maybe having children made him grow up or an agent whispered in his ear.  His last few roles starting with Mud and Dallas and Wolf and now something I caught on TV with Woody Harrelson, Last Detective.  He’s slowly gaining a bit of weight but he will never be a pretty boy again.
    It was a great day for me with little spats over my hypiness.  “Sparks are coming out of your ass,” says my companion. I’ve lived in Florida for four winters and I don’t always know the exact route to the final destination but to me it is all fun if you are with someone you like and what does it matter?  But no.  People in retirement seem to be getting more uptight rather than more relaxed. “Don’t walk too fast.”  “We’ll miss the start of the movie.” “We’re lost, get the stretcher, I’m out of breath!”  The last word of each complaint dragged out into a whine.  
    Jeez, get over yourself, I thought, you are only in your sixties. Why such a curmudgeon, such a misery?  Do we have anything else on the schedule today? Lighten the fuck up. But I roll with the crankiness because I know it will get right soon. I stop teasing her because I know it only makes it worse.

     In the end, I put 100% perfect on the day. My friend may say 70% and that’s her choice, not finding everything wonderful just because we are alive. I say why not.  We have a choice to see it either way.  Laugh or cry, moan or make up a song on the spot about our predicament. Life, after all, is so heavy a burden, we think, we act as if we are the first person to ever be alive.  Just do good, be kind and laugh the rest away.  Especially with your last twenty years. 

(Written two days after the author turned sixty-eight)


One Day And Counting

Zeb for Sale?

Zeb for Sale?.

Zeb for Sale?

     I was amazed at how radically our exports dropped from over $100 million in the 80’s to 35 million in the little over twenty years since we lost most favored nation in the banana trade.  Why we didn’t have an agriculture program then I don’t know?  The way I see it as a person of dual citizenship, both Dominican and American, is that we need more innovation, development and marketing.   We need to develop a market in say, chocolate.  We need to include the basic workers and we need a big budget for advertising.  In Peru an American investor started a chocolate factory.  He included the peasants in the business.  That is they got a share of the US$15 candy bar and not just a few EC dollars for a pod of caco or a pound of dried beans.  So the laborer was willing to pick and shell and clean because at the end of the month he got a whopping good pay check.
    For Dominica, I recommend developing a market in America for sorrel.  A beautiful red juice, easy to make, healthy for your children, inexpensive to buy, ship.  Why aren’t our mountainsides covered in sorrel bushes?  I can see every bodega and fruit market and grocery store in NY with bags of sorrel and little video’s produced by us showing how to make the juice with a stick of cinnamon, maybe provided an the package of sorrel, that we ship over night because we are that big a business!.  We have to think big and outside the box.
    Menopause is the topic of the day in the US.  Women are no longer shy.  Yams are the best remedy for the side effects of low estrogen.  Why are we not shipping truckloads of all the different kinds of root vegetables that we have to the US?
    Marketing.  A Public Relations Company that comes in and teaches us how to sell what we want.
I met a lovely Austrian couple walking up the mountain to Trafalgar while I was taking my walk this morning and of course the buses were passing us left and right and we had a chat and they said that although they were from the ship at port they always walk wherever they go so they get to see the people and the houses and the terrain.  Richard and Annika were lovely and appreciative of the tour of my home and the beers for refreshments.
    Mostly boat people are told not to spend any money in Dominica, that there is nothing to buy, while your wives and sister sit with their wares on the side of the road and people pass them straight in those big Chinese buses that could kill with their exhaust.  And why pray tell can they not pick up our honorable students and women and gentlemen who look for a transport at odd hours into town.  Maybe they could meet a local and learn something about this county they are driving through on an eighty dollar bus ride to three ten minute stops.  Doesn’t help our people and the bus drivers don’t get much of that $US80 they shell out per person.  The ship company gets it or a tour company.  Not poor little beleaguered Dominica.
     Its a conundrum inside a riddle.



The dining room table partially laden for the Happy New Year party at 6 Shawford. In front we have Rachie’s well known sweets: brownies, bread pudding and banana bread. Into those B’s isn’t she? Could be the name she gave up. The next plate to the right is a bright round platter of barbecued ribs and chicken and in the middle, mini kabobs of beef and pork. They are on an orange plaid plate that she brought from the US that was left in the attic on 148 Elm St. along with many other finds. But this was special. It was a full box of what were Mrs. Arnold’s Pasadicha dishes. They were the most garish, ugly dishes, yet perfectly charming, even had a creamer and sugar bowl. All the pieces are gone now except the platter which has a mended crack across her middle.
In between these two plates is an oval fiesta ware that has about a dozen crabbacks. This is a delicacy here. We have crabs all over the place because of the amount of water we have all over the place. The crabs are caught, gutted, the meat from their legs processed into a stuffing and put back into the shell. Delish. Rach doesn’t make those but Johnny gets them for her from Pearl’s.
The last small plate way to the left is filled with pesto ears, Rachel’s invention. Fresh picked basil blended with cashews, olive oil and cheddar cheese and tucked into little rounds of her brother Lennox’s fresh raw dough, into mini cupcake tins and covered with shredded mozzarella. mmmmmmm
Not shown are her sister Jane’s roasted rooties and boy do they have rooties in Dominica. These are root vegetables. Six or more different kinds of yams, cush cush, tania, white, yellow, dasheen and then beets and carrots and onions and garlic and ginger. Although they all don’t cook at the same speed. Some people may break their teeth on the tania.
Creativity in the kitchen or in the garden or organizing one’s house and home is all of a piece. The words come out when they will and tell a story when they can.

Bonty arrived at the party! He was looking thin and frail but he climbed the twenty-six stairs to the first level of the house and sat for the afternoon and talked and joked and ate. “No alcohol” he said because of his swollen hands. He used to be quite the bon vivant with a little rum in him.

Home Thoughts, Dominica

To The Editor, Chronicle of Dominica:
     We are citizens and visitors, leaving for great whiles to the States, then coming back yearly.  Since 1995 when Mrs John arrived in Roseau to meet her intended’s mother and family, when before she had never heard of the country.
     Here is this year’s analysis.  Dominica is a thriving country where everyone is “taking their blows” but mostly all are more than making do and are getting a bit ahead. Everyone is looking sharper and neater for the new year.  There are more and more outlets for goods that are needed and at more reasonable prices.  There is much modernization.
    We are connected to the world, for good or bad.  We can see  great movies on cable TV which is vastly more reasonable to connect to than in  the US.  But the children also see Nike’s for $500US and want a pair.
    What we notice is the NYC effect.  There is a Chinese shop on every corner and then again half way down the street.  We wonder.  Dominica is finally on the platform for success.  We, as a couple, profess to know little about the government workings and doings.  Do we owe the Chinese Government a load of money?  Could or would they ever call it due?  Is this their method of world domination? They certainly have the USA in their financial crosshairs.
    Gold was the pinnacle of the 18th Century, iron ore and coal the gold of the 19th century, oil the gold of the 20th century.  Water is the new gold.  With four hundred and one inches of rain a year, everyone will court us.  Who will we owe a debt to?  The US of A did not let Kruschev touch Cuba and they will keep China from totally controlling our island of Dominica, so close to their shores.  But best be careful with our new found friends and the wealth they have brought and the property then now own.  Quite an expanse on Morne Daniel.
    Some of the best roads run to the mountains in Dominica. (Yet not up  Morne Daniel.)  Are they for our escape or the ease of troops? Will the Americans come to save us the way Eugenia stepped up for Ronald over Grenada (I think there was a girlish crush going on there!) It is not politics this time.  It is pragmatism.  America does not want China in its backyard controlling the country with unlimited supplies of fresh water.  If the US is still strong when that event seems imminent they will have a thing or two to say.  If not, then we go to the highest bidder or the strongest persuader. Don’t believe that the world won’t stand by while a little nation is overwhelmed.  It happens all the time.

     We must keep her safe, Watikubuli,* she is beautiful. Stand tall, your grace.

Rachel Walker John
Oliver Curtis John
Shawford Estate, Dominica


*  Kalinaga (Carib language) word for “Tall are Her Mountains”



Memoir of a Manic

Memoir of a Manic.