|Written in 2001 by
Ronald Joe Record
|Copyright, Ronald Joe Record
All Rights Reserved
One Winter, during the break between semesters at the University of Florida, i took a trip to the Bahamas. This was a really low budget trip as i was a graduate student on teaching assistant wages and i was supporting a commune of about 8 okies living in north-central Florida just outside Gainesville. So, i began my trip by hitch-hiking to Miami where i hoped to hop a ride on a boat going out to one of the islands.
One of my rides was with this crazy guy who kept babbling something about "Satan's Claws". I gradually elicited his story. It seems he was really upset about all of the commercialization surrounding Christmas. It was about the 3rd week in December and all the stores were chock full of Christmas sales with people frantically buying gifts. He had somehow figured out that this crass exhibition was a result of "Satan's Claws" which was just his way of saying "Santa Claus". The commercialization of Christmas and the accompanying greed were all a result of our replacing Christ with Santa Claus as the central figure of Christmas.
I agreed with him and, as i stepped out of his car to catch another ride, his parting words were "Beware of Satan's Claws". I told him i would and said farewell. It was pretty easy getting to Miami but i needed to go to Coconut Grove where i the marina and yacht harbor were. I ended up having to walk a twisted knot of freeways and off ramps loaded with my bags. I had packed every religious or spiritual text i could get my hands on as this was to be a sort of spiritual journey and i wanted to fill my head with all of the teachings of the world's great religions. It was hell walking through Miami but i finally made it to Coconut Grove.
I had no luck hopping a ride on any of the boats going out. I did get an offer to sleep on a boat and took the guy up as it's really hard to find a place in Miami to sleep where the cops won't hassle you. Sleeping on this guy's boat was great. There were no bugs and no cops and the rocking of the boat just lulled you to sleep. Unfortunately, the second night i was out there i woke up with the guy leaning over me trying to get off, using me as what he called a "match". I didn't know anything about this match business but i got off the boat real quick and resumed my search for a ride to an island. I learned that the tops of buildings made pretty safe sleeping spots.
After about a week of looking i finally scored a ride to Nassau on one of those kinds of airplanes that can take-off and land on water. It was delivering the mail and the pilot was kind enough to let me ride along. In Nassau he introduced me to another mail delivery person who was going out the next day to take the mail to the outer islands and said he know a perfect place for me to camp. That night in Nassau i strolled the party-lined streets listening to island music and dancing. I met a young man who was trying to sell a joint and, since he looked so needy, i bought his joint for $5. I didn't even smoke pot at the time - it was just a way for me to give him some money. The next morning we took off to the outer Bahamas. The mailman deposited me on an island called "South Andros". South Andros just had one small little village but a new resort was being built amidst a large coconut palm grove. I setup camp in the coconut palms a couple of miles away from the village.
For the next two weeks i subsisted on coconut milk and sunshine. I slept in a hammock with mosqitoe netting as the bugs were pretty bad. The water was great but i had to cross some pretty gnarly coral to get out to good swimming. I read my books and, every few days, i'd hike the two miles into the village to fill my water bottles. A young island boy discovered my camp and he would come out almost every day to talk to me and to shimmy up a coconut palm to get me a fresh supply of coconuts.
On Christmas morning i decided to hike into the village playing Christmas carols on my bamboo flute. As i approached the village several young children came out to dance and sing along with me. They knew the carols but they had different words. As i entered the village i must have had ten or twelve kids singing and surrounding me. As we passed the church i thought it would be a good idea to go inside with the singing so i swung up the steps and entered along with my entourage of beautiful brown skinned voices.
We stood at the rear of the church singing and playing. Several large Bahamian women were decorating the alter and, as we were singing, one woman carried a giant inflated plastic Santa Claus into the church and placed it prominently on the alter. I immediately thought of my crazy ride but just continued playing. After she put Santa Claus in his place the woman strode to the back of the church and told us to get out of the church as they had work to do. So, we left.
At the end of two weeks of fasting i was pretty weak. I can remember that last walk up to the village carrying my heavy bags felt like Christ toting a cross. I had to stop and rest so often that i didn't make it to the village until dark. In fact, i didn't quite make it to the village and fell asleep in a graveyard on a hillside. I was awakened in the morning by a young boy who told me he was to take me to see his mother. I followed him into the village where, it turns out, his mother is the Postmistress. She gives me some soup and some bread and asks where i am going. I tell her my story and attempt to give her some money for the food. I can't find my money. So, it looks like someone has taken my money (and the joint). When she realizes i have no money she asks how much will it cost for me to get home. I say not much and she gives me $50.
As i am waiting for my boatride back to Nassau a policeman comes up to talk to me. Turns out he is the father of the young boy who came to visit me at my camp. He has found a joint and some money in his son's room so i tell him my whole story. He admonishes me for buying the joint and for leaving it around for his son to find, apologizes for his son and tries to give me some money. I assure him that i am alright and that his son was a big help and a good kid. We part friends and he wishes me well.
In Miami i am approached by a group of Japanese tourists who think i am Jesus. They want to know what Jesus has to say to them. I tell them i am not Jesus but that i wish their country would stop killing so many whales. I guess i could have been a little more tactful as they immediately lost interest in me when i said that. Oh well.
I arrived back in Gainesville just in time for the start of the second semester. First thing i did was send the South Andros island Postmistress $50 with a thank you note. I'm not sure how to interpret all of this. By and large i was treated with kindness and respect by everyone i met. It seemed like i was treated especially well by people who handle the mail. The plastic Santa Claus on the alter really didn't seem like a symbol of greed - it was just colorful and happy. Or maybe i'd already been ripped by Satan's Claws.