Sunday, May 25, 2014

beheard x soa x national burger month

my creative genius in the kitchen at soa life...

happy national burger month!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Bahamas: A Reminder That Life is Good

Sexy Food and Classy Natives

Having booked a ticket for a solo adventure to the Bahamas was business as usual for me. Find a cheap flight, book one ticket, worry about logistics later. It was after booking said ticket that I thought- perhaps I should fulfill one of my resolutions for 2014 and, as opposed to making this pilgrimage alone, bring accompaniment for partnership and general merriment.

I extended the invitation to several people, including a feeble attempt to my big sister who has a life consumed by little people's schedules and therefore cannot fly by the seat of her proverbial pants quite as much as I. Initially she said thanks but no thanks, only to be followed up, several days later by an affirmative. This would be a sister sojourn - get it?

Having a faulty alarm or an alarming ability to sleep through noise and distraction, I missed my 7 am flight out of Newark airport headed for Nassau and, as experience with travel, and life, teaches you, did not fret but immediately called the airline to see what other flights would be departing that day. Turns out everything does happen for a reason and the delay simply allowed me the pleasure of traveling with my sister from soup to (almost) nuts. Meeting at the airport in our respective printed leggings and chucks vs. diamonds and stilettos only allowed me to marvel at the fact that matching DNA does not create matching women. 

An open mouthed, neck crinked, passed out plane ride later and I was in Nassau, Bahamas and being greeted by a calypso band and mile-long line to get through immigration.

Having decided to share in this experience with my older, more distinguished, and far fancier sister I had agreed to compromise and stay in a resort to make her comfortable, telling myself this would be the 'something new' on my current international adventure. I quickly learned that all of the shit talking I had been doing about resort travel with no rhyme was said for good reason, but more on that later.

We arrived at Melia in a shared cab with an icy Italian couple and were first greeted by a young bellman who called me a strong independent women when hoisting both my and my sister's luggage from the back of the vehicle in one fell swoop. I felt very D-child to say the least. Once inside the chilly, expansive lobby awaiting check-in three young, amiable Bahamians were friendly if not a touch flirtatious, letting their gold teeth and gold chains twinkle under the artificial light. The three were carting sleeved tuxes, leading me to suspect a wedding brought them to this fine establishment. Feeling that my sister likely doesn't get hit on nearly enough at the local sporting event to support her children, I was glad she received confirmation of her beauty and allure, though when we discovered the good looking one was the groom to be, we were both a bit disappointed. Isn't that always the case.

We checked in, dropped our bags and headed to the beach fraught with aging tourists and locals aggressively selling 'authentic' goods. Not as warm as we would have liked we lounged for an hour or so and, once the sun dipped below the man made horizon of hotel facades, it was time to change into our garb for the evening wear competition. Felicia won. Felicia always wins.

Mr. T was our heavily fragranced cab driver for the evening and with little direction as to where we'd like to dine he insisted we needed to go to where the 'sexy food' was and deposited us at the tiki torched Travelers Rest not 20 minutes later. My baked chicken, plantains and rice and peas may not have been sexy, nor was the service, but the gentlemen seated across from us offering to buy us drinks at the end of our meal was sexy as hell! Perhaps one of the smoothest moves in the world, homeboy offered to buy us drinks, and when they arrived in 2 shakes of a Caribbean lamb's tail,  he simply raised his glass in acknowledgment, not even making the slightest move to come over.  I loved it!

Fortunately we ended up meeting the MJ inspired smooth operator just a short while later when, after a couple of failed attempts at procuring a cab or appropriate transportation back to the compound known as Melia, he offered to give us a ride in a car sufficiently nice to put my sister at ease. Winston was now our new island friend. With notice of Winston's birthday closing in and his providing a gallantry ride home for the two damsels in distress, I offered to buy him a drink for services rendered, leaving him my card and letting the cards fall where they may...

Off to bed and late to rise Felicia and I woke in a sun filled and stickily warm room the following morning to find her well rested and me covered in mosquito bites. At least someone loves me.

After a both dissatisfying and overpriced breakfast in the dining quarters we made moves to the beach and managed an hour or so of kayaking in the bay, or should I say kiddie pool in the sea the resort cordons off for it's guests. The sun was warm and engaging my core paddling made me feel like I was getting a work out. That being said, shooting the shit with the underage staff about drug dealers and living in the ghetto was by far the takeaway from our afternoon on the private beach. 

I assumed working at a resort on a tropical island allows plenty of opportunities to interact with smart, funny, lovely ladies such as myself but leave it to my high class sister to remind me most people don't interact with 'the help.' This leaves me questioning - what's my deal? And why am I so much more awesome than everyone else? Perhaps we will never know.

After a quick change, chucks firmly affixed to  feet, we made out way downstairs from our 5th floor abode to discover pre-wedding photos being taken of the lobby homies' wedding from the day prior. The only thing suspect was that logic would dicate, based on attire that the purported groom as not at all the groom, but a wingman/groomsmen and one of the seemingly available men was in his wedding whites. My initial thought was man - what a good friend to take one for the team - not that any of them took anything from the Heard or Geller girls. Felicia's was a bit different in that she was in total surprise, revisiting the subject throughout the day to reiterate her shock and awe at the deception and subsequent bamboozlement. Evidently being married for 20 years makes you forget men lie to get pussy. Ah the joys of being a saavy single girl!

A sharp right and short walk led us to Pappa Surf where a very attractive and minimally accented man helped adjust out bright orange beach cruisers for what would turn into a 4 hour bike ride along the north shore of the island, stopping briefly at a place named Frank's to posthumously honor out late grandfather with mediocre cuisine with excellent service.

The brief pit stop allowed plenty of time for near death brushes with crazy Bahamanian drivers, wrong turns and the feeling of a broken vagina one can only understand when they are a woman in a shirt skirt on a bike for half the day. Despite the fractured labia I managed to have fun and really enjoyed seeing the island while being active with my sister while keenly pinpointing my next moves when I discovered once off of the property there are far less sterile environments resembling, dare I say it, an authentic human experience.

Though my sister was born without sweat glands, I inherited enough for the two of us, so after our minimally laborious ride, it was time to shower up and gussy up as Saturday night was deemed our 'go out' night. 

Felicia had been fantasizing about go go dancing in a nightclub to recapture her 90's experience, but before we could go in search of the perfect CeCe Peniston dance jam, food was in order. Lonely Planet directed is to Cafe Matisse in downtown Nassau tucked away in a back corner where the waiters are dressed sharp as a knife edge and the tourist patrons are dressed for Coachella. As the first restaurant I've perhaps ever patronized that did not have a single chicken option on the menu, we opted to feast on minestrone soup and salad followed by cookies and conversation. The lengthy post-digestion candle lit chat reminded me of the long conversations a former incarnation of my father's bretheren had years ago, before they dissolved under the pressure of family and the inconveniences of the modern world.

Already being downtown we were informed that we were a stone's throw from nightclub territory and wobbly meandered down the cobblestone streets looking for action. At first it appeared the only action we would get was in the form of 2 stray dogs who took a particularly strong liking to me, however, while deeply and honestly communicating to me through their big brown puppy dog eyes and making me feel all warm and sappy inside they were equally disturbing my far more skittish sister so we ducked into Club Bambu, to avoid the possible mauling she saw the two puppy dogs were brewing up in their peanut sized, malnourished brains. Luckily, Bambu had actually been suggested to us so we found ourselves in just the right spot. Just the right spot, that is, if you're the barely grown offspring of the tourists paying top dollar to eat till their heart's content atop a floating resort  known as a cruise ship with the occasional stop in for procurement of key-chains and consumption of fruity beverages. We weren't feeling the preteen crowd and made our way to the door. Whilst en route a balding man of seemingly Eastern European decent asked where I was going and, when so kindly pointing out I was nearly 15 years older (give or take) than the average grinder on the dancer floor he replied 'me too.' 

Clearly some of us know our element more than others.

There were two bouncers outside of the club, one to locate a cab for us and the other to stare at me blankly, my charm and wit clearly flying right over his head, as I asked where we should head next. We had been told that Waterloo was, and I quote, 'ratchet,' but that only piqued my interest more so when James, our cabbie brought us there is was with some reticence. He made a circle through the parking lot at Waterloo, located at the far North end of the island, but noy a single X chromosome was in sight and that coupled with the wary warning of James made me change my mind and listen to his advice as to where the 'classy natives' party. This classy native mecca came in the form of what from the outside appeared to be a dilapidated building along the main road, but once inside Ibiza was as shiny as a new penny.

As if being the only two Caucasian people in the place would not tip off the clientele as to our being from out of town, the hand held tour the staff offered us proved it. Having spent a good 15 minutes outside chatting away with the colorful staff had evidently made an impression, as I am wont to do and they wanted to make sure we liked the place and felt comfortable before dropping the $15 cover. Cover dropped and entrance granted we obligatory bobbed our heads to the likes of Beyonce and YG while birthday girls drank in sashes and tiaras and an adorable young man who was clearly his own biggest fan did his best Breezy impression under the disco ball. One nursed greyhound and cranberry juice later we made our way outside to phone James to come back to retrieve us, as the doormen informed us walking home was not prudent. We (see: me) tossed barbs with the locals out front until one of the head honchos not only told me I was not yet 'house broken' but also told me I was gangster. It was at that moment that I realized just how insightful and intelligent the Bahamian people are.

Sunday morning I had a date with a dolphin. It was bedtime.

Daiquiris and Dolphins

With a printed receipt for an early morning call time Felicia was none too happy when accessing the temperamental WiFi allowed us to speak with the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounters peeps and they informed us that they had bumped us from the early morning  to the 12:30 swim. This allowed us just the right amount of time to do nothing but kill time for a couple hours. We chose to do so in the form of the Daiquiri Shack just outside of the Melia that made delicious fresh smoothies as long as you made note to leave the rum out. That, some window shopping, and a brief stop at the beach to properly ensure that I will soon just be one big freckle and we were off to the Blue Lagoon by way of Paradise Island on a bus encasing not only 2 of the most obnoxious women I have ever crossed paths with, but two examples of why, from time to time, I am embarrassed to be an American.

A bus to a boat to an island in the middle of the Caribbean and we'd made it to the Blue Lagoon. With no topless Brooke Shields frolicking about, it seemed best to enter the property and get our brief tutorial about the mammal on which I did such an impressive 4th grade animal report that my mother still shows it to her students as an example of excellence. Talk about standing the test of time. After stripping down and strapping up into our life vests we jumped into the sea and got to dance, kiss, hug and rub 2 male dolphins. Basically, it was the best first date I've ever had . 

Next we got to perform acrobatic feats with two ladies of the sea who pushed us through the water by the bottoms of our feet in full super hero form. I think I may have been able to enjoy it even more thoroughly if not having received such emphatic warnings about holding on to my bathing suit bottoms. Instead of feeling exhilarated I was more filled with fear of showing a rapt audience my private lady bits. Luckily, Renaldo our trainer insisted on giving me a big rock for my finger from the bottom of the ocean. Courtesy of his dolphin friend, which assuaged my fear. Be still my heart.

After the boat filled with slow jams and crew members brought us back to the 'main island' Felicia and I were soon back to the Melia to do a little souvenir shopping for her boys (aka the loves of my life), ingest even more virgin cocktails and perform yet another costume change. 

At this point I had been in touch with my new island homie, Winston, thanks to Whats App - good for the forming and maintenance of all international relationships - and though he was invited to dinner with us, schedules made it so that he had promised to meet us there. There was The Poop Deck West. Repeatedly suggested as a go to must for eating on the island I tried my hardest to resist it's pull- based on name alone, but eventually relinquished my steadfast boundaries with all things bathroom and ate on the water at a big, beautiful restaurant decorated like my grandma's apartment.

Felicia opted for the seafood paella so fresh the salt of the sea drenched the dish and I went for baked chicken with plantains once again. With food being so expensive I felt it best to go with what I knew would fill my belly and satisfy my palette. With no signs of my new friend and no WiFi by which to contact him Felicia and I took a cab back to the hotel but this time the driver had been a social studies teacher and deemed us his most recently enrolled pupils. Many facts and figures were tossed about but the only one that burned into my brain was that Sandals, as seen on our left, was a couples only retreat. Given my more recent entry about +1s at wedding this may seem like the continuation of the same rant, but for one reason or another, this infuriated me. I have said this before, and I will say it again, singles are the last acceptably discriminated against faction of society. The fact that an entire resort doesn't welcome you unless you're a part of a twosome just seems unfair to me. Not only to me, as I don't really give a shit about the resort life anyway, but for anyone who is not currently in a traditional relationship. I guess Mormons aren't welcomed either (yeah, I went there...).

Just as we pulled into the Melia and exited our car, Winston pulled up and Felicia, knowing much more about motor vehicles than I pointed it out (it just looked like a white car to me) and after exchanging pleasantries my sister she went upstairs to rendezvous with Pay-Per-View and I boarded that white car and went to The Twisted Lime, situated on a bay and open past 10 pm, making it a luxury in these parts. Two local Kalik beers were sampled and my debt repaid to the almost birthday boy while we sat and watched the playoffs. The most entertaining portion of the evening was, however, the bartender who has some enigmatic 49 year-old girlfriend who lives 800 miles away and has been his paramour for 12 years, yet is waiting on her mamma and daddy to die because she is white and he is black and the in laws wouldn't take to kindly to that. I know I was right on the water, but it certainly smelled fishy to me.

Winston, being the gentleman he is drove me home and made promises to see me the following day. I returned to a sleeping sister and went to bed knowing she would be on her way out of town the following morning and not only would I be losing my travel companion, but my mid level luxury suite and moving to the other side of the tracks.


I think both Felicia and I had anticipated some time Monday morning to take a walk together, or lay on the beach, but in pure vacation style we slept, we ate, and we parted ways. Opting for the convenient if not lackluster breakfast buffet downstairs we sat in the sun and ate fruit and cereal for $50 before Felicia wheeled her bag to the front steps and began her journey back to the still frigid NorthEast.

I had other plans.

Having discovered a sweet, smart, handsome young man with whom I could spend my time in this tropical paradise I took full advantage and perhaps persuaded my new friend to play hooky in order to show me around his home town.

A brief sesh with WiFi in the Melia lobby and I was off on my adventure, tote bag in hand and stranger by my side. 

Weaving through the seemingly endless roundabouts in no direction in particular we first tended to some logistics, like gas in the car, which I later found out is close to $6 a gallon and a seafood platter for my new friend, fried and drenched in ketchup to go - perfect beach cuisine.

A couple bottles of overpriced water later  we were trekking across the hot white sand of Cabbage Beach located behind Atlantis, only punctuated with people and not chair lined as Cable Beach had been. The perfect quiet, shady spot was located and camp was set up for the day.

A day with the crash of waves, the warmth of the sun and the joy of getting to know someone new trumps most.

After several hours alternating between the exchanging of intimate stories, further damaging my hyper-pigmented skin and dipping into the chilly salt bath known as the Caribbean Sea it was time to get the blood flowing and we made our way down the banks of the beach on foot only to discover a curious couple at the end of the row. Curious not because it was a man and woman, middle aged engrossed in conversation, but curious because this middle aged man was wearing sunglasses and a tie-dyed thong - and nothing else. Seeming not the least bit uncomfortable as sand beetles burrowed into his nether regions I have to admit I had respect for his bold choice in outer wear as well as his virtual ease with colorfully hammocking his banana for the world to see.

Real life was not weighing heavy on my shoulders, but sadly I could not say the same for my companion, so we were forced to part ways as he left to attend to the joys and burdens of adult existence and I went to check into my grandparent-scented room at the Junkanoo Beach Resort, which is no way resembled a resort, but offered clean sheets and a water front view, if you could ignore the courtyard and subsequent busy street partially blocking the shore.

I also took advantage of the time to go for an extremely sweaty run, stopping to watch the sunset, as I had not yet seen one on the island and felt that with a limited amount of those to be enjoyed in this life, I should take advantage of one every chance I get.

Our parting was brief and I was again retrieved from my palatial estate and brought to the same strip of property at which Felicia and I had dined days before and what I only just discovered was this 'fish fry' of which we'd heard so much yet could not quite locate, assuming it was the actual name of a restaurant, but instead was a collection of establishments that offered a variety of fried delicacies.

Oh Andros was the one establishment still openand  had a series of 'doormen' lingering outside, eyelids drooped and intentions suspicious, but that did not stop us from entering, ordering 2 Sky Juices and a chicken dinner. Our vertically challenged waitress was attentive and kind and the though I was served an intimidating 8 pounds of food, I remained undeterred.

Late night carbohydrates deposited directly onto my b-thigh and sky juice most certainly becoming one of my least favorite beverages to mix well gin with dairy product we were off again - but where to? With Atlantis being synonymous with Nassau I had tried my best to avoid it, but my tour guide for the evening insisted upon it's draw and walked me around the enormous property, replete with shark tank, casino filled with drunk middle-aged white people, and a private beach - filled with no one. A dark night sky filled with the excitement of an offshore electrical storm drew us in, but the shape-shifting clouds and twinkling stars kept us, backs in the cold sand, for hours. 

Living in New York, or being an adult, or perhaps simply being over-analytical by nature has left me constantly rushing and continuously contemplating, but for these few hours I just was. No smoke, no drink, no worries - just a moment in time to enjoy being brave enough to be alive. There was magic in the air that night, but there was also a chill, and close to 3 am we made our way past the sharks, through the casino and back to my cockroach motel. When exiting the sleek white sedan, we made promises to reconnect the following evening, after our respective days spent at work, and wandering the multicolored, sweaty streets of Nassau, Bahamas.

Junkanoo Bitch

After a little sightseeing, a visit to the post office atop Parliament street to send out my obligatory post cards, and the consumption of coconut rum cake strong enough to knock someone off of the wagon, I was back to the beach. 

The color of the water in the Caribbean is unlike any other water I have seen in the world and the vibrant teal undulating against the pristine sandy shores is truly the beauty of mother nature at it's finest. That being said, the color of the complexion of the average Bahamanian is a close second, with the deep rich chocolate color often found on the continent of Africa itself. The combination of these two hues offers a feast for your eyes and a beautiful contrast that can simply not be denied. I was in aesthetic heaven.

Once settled into Junkanoo Beach on what I thought would be my first real day alone quickly turned into a revolving door or characters, namely the 3 wise men, Frank the Mumbler from Haiti, the Juice Man cometh and DJ Austin Mali who was so baked his was almost as difficult to understand as Frank. While lounging on Junkanoo beach, minding my business these three men came up, in that order to impart nuggets of genius in addition to illustrating that the true jem I had discovered in Winston Shakesoeare who I had had the pleasure of encountering on my first day and who perhaps does not represent the entire population of Bahamian men.

Frank had a mouth so full of marbles and accent so hybred between Bahamanian and Haitian I could barely keep up with his tales of woe volunteered about his 16 year-old baby mamma and and quest for riches. Though his intrusion into my day was largely irritating he did utter 'Money can't buy no love, but love can't buy no groceries.' Grammatically challenged, but genius nonetheless.  He also told me he had never seen a white person like me and that i was special - down to my nose- so he may always have to be dear to my heart.

Next came the Juice Man who in an attempt to slang his home bottled organic remedies on the beach went instead into a diatribe about how people being gay is a trend like tattoos or taste in music and that I should get anyone I know help for this affliction as it is clearly a weakness in character more than an inherent desire. Needless to say when JM asked for my digits I politely declined.

Not 20 minutes later Austin, née DJ Mali made himself quite comfortable on the sand next to me and tried his best to make small talk but being the poster child for 'Just Say No' that he clearly was it was an extraordinarily difficult task. He did however manage to tell me to sample the local 'candy' - offering up his own magic stick behind clouded eyes and when finally making his exit after I made it abundantly clear that touching my feet was not acceptable- repeated at various levels of volume that he wanted to touch me with his tongue- and that I would like it.

Lets just say it was a good thing I hadn't really eaten yet that day or the remnants of undigested food would most certainly be splattered across the white sand beach.

With late night dinner plans I had time to properly shower, lotion up in hopes of replenishing what I had allowed the sun to leech out of my every pore during daytime hours and, as any red-blooded American when traveling abroad, watch some TV. 'The New Girl' and 'The Mindy Project' were ingested like the sweet, tooth-rotting candy they are and just as Tori Spelling came on, slinging her marital woes for Neilsen ratings, Winston showed up and rescued me from the world of reality television. 

The fish fry could not offer food at this hour, though I am quite certain any number of party favors could be acquired in the happening parking lot so we moved on, as my dinner date was starving and only hours away from entering the penultimate year of his twenties. 

It was back to The Twisted Lime where a limitedn late night menu provided lemonade and wings, all too appropriate to watch yet another playoff game and enjoy the breeze off of the bay.

The ride home was quiet for two reasons, one was my inevitable car sickness that I become afflicted with each and every time I ride in a motorized vehicle, the other because the reality of my having to bid adieu to my new bestie was becoming all too real. 

For anyone who knows me, or reads what I write while traveling this globe you know that I often meet people, often men, often locals when schlepping my backpack from hostel to bus to plane and back again. This gives me joy, entertainment, and great stories each and every time it happens. I have real love for so many people I have met in varied country codes and do my best to stay in touch with the majority of them - but this was different. This encounter and the palpable exchange of energy was different and was both exhilarating and terrifying and all I was certain of, was that I didn't want it to end.

And, like all good things, I knew it had to.

Saying goodbye was not going to be easy. It was not going to be pretty and I knew I could operate in typical Briana fashion, becoming distant and sarcastic and pretending like I didn't care all that much, or I could function like the Briana inside and I am trying to desperately to be seen by the world and show that, more than most anything in the world. I care.

Some nice words were said, some promises of future encounters were made, and tears were most certainly held back as I said goodbye to my now Bahamian boyfriend and got my things ready to head 'home.' Lights were, shortly thereafter, out.

Come on Pretty Mamma

With another check on my list to complete all of the countries mentioned in the Beach Boy's classic 'Kokomo' sans percussion from Uncle Jesse and I was on my way. I maybe dabbed a couple tears in the privacy of my own room, with only the lone roach to offer a shoulder and took one last glance out of my window that just the night before had given the full time security guard a bit too much of a show and the gall to insist on my coming down to see him - um, no. My cab driver, per the usual told me his life story and not 30 minutes later I was at NAS to gaze at the reddened and braided families from Westchester and Stamford board my flight back to the North East, back to the cold rain of reality and back to another goal, another country, and another dream.

Alas, this just may be How Briana Got Her Groove Back... (Angela ain't got nothign on me!)