Sunday, February 17, 2008

Down the islands

The local guys were nice enough to take me out on a client
boondoggle out to one of the islands northwest of port of spain
where there are lots of nice houses along the shore. It was a
nice trip, and with a careful balancing of rum and cokes and
heinekens I managed to stay mostly buzzed most of the day.

Since I got here earlier in the month I've been very interested
in getting out to see that part of the island. My father served here
in the US Navy in a seebee unit back in the 50's at the base that the
Navy inherited from the British as part of the lend-lease deal.

I've heard about trinidad all my life. Most of the stories involve
"the natives", that when I was young I pictured them as National
Geographic natives, but I think a better term for them would be
"locals". People were much less politically correct 25 years ago when
I heard these stories.

The dock where we left for the islands was part of the old Navy
base at a part of the island called chaguarams. I tried to pick out
details from stories I've heard several
times: the seaplane ramp where my dad and his buddies caught an
800 pound shark using a reel of 1/8" cable and a giant steel hook with
a mullet on it. They dragged the shark up the ramp using a tug for
the seaplane, then let the locals cut it into 30 pound bloody chunks then
ride off with their shark meat on their bicycles. I've heard the road
out to chaguaramas described, since trinidad is where my father learned
how to drive. Now it's mostly suburbs stretching almost to the gates of
the base, then it was just a mangrove swamp with a one lane road where my
dad got run off the road into the swamp by a taxi driver from P.O.S.. My
dad got his revenge when he was driving a low-boy trailer carrying a bulldozer,
he didn't yield or slow down and ran that same taxi out into the muck of the

I saw the old buildings where my dad must have worked, since the architecture
is clearly 1940's government drab. The buildings on the base are some of the
best-looking on the island, which doesn't say much for the island. Now much
of the docks area is covered by a marina filled with some damn nice
boats, and the old base buildings are taken up by the trinidad military.

The house we went to was fairly nice and it looks recently built. I told
my dad on the phone where I was going, and he said he'd been out to
these islands, previously all the houses on the islands were part of the
base area. He went to the atlantic side of the island, but to get there they
couldn't take a small rowboat through the dragons mouth, they had to
carry the boat over the hills to the north coast, then row out to the island
All that just to drink some beer and fish. Much easier trip now.

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