on the second flight — the much tinier plane with its *single* propeller — both of our pilots were named Mike. odd, no? yes! and the first mike wore an ironic, lopsided smile as he told us this. even as he was stooped over like some ancient wizard or crone, trying to stand in the tiny plane and address up before take off.
for such a tiny plane, it was a long flight. ordinarily, we have flown s different way to get to St. Barths. and the puddle-jumper flight was something like 10 or 15 minutes. from San Juan, it was a full 55 minute flight. i closed my eyes and had fantasies of being some WWI fly-boy.
did they have fly-boys in World War I?
point being, we made it here. we got through customs. we got our gear. we were picked up. brought to the band-house. we toasted (as has been our tradition since the first trip here some seven years ago), then we changed and went to soundcheck. and that was the night of the first gig.
you have to understand, the first night’s gig at the baz bar is always a bit of shambles. you’re not really in your right mind. for us, we had 13 or 14 hours earlier departed for the airport in a city where the temperatures were several degrees below freezing. it was night and cold and busy as all hell. after a day spent in-transit, you emerge into the bustling island-world of SBH, but it is comparatively sleepy. and it is bright, and suffuse with color and heat.
you get driven to the house, have to sort of crash course your brain through some rudimentary french and kissing people on both cheeks and shit. and then, if you’re us, you toast having made it here one more time.
there was not enough time after arrival for us to unpack and decompress. we had to do a quick turn around and get down to the club to souncheck, eat, and play.
you can imagine how we shambled, how we staggered, how we swayed on our feet. we were sleepy as hell. and it’s usually like that on the first night. everything is uncomfortable, awkward, new, tropical, and sleep-hazed.
we made it through our three sets without major incident. i got a coke from the bartender and walked back up the hill to the band-house.
there was an old cigar i’d found during my clean-up/packing frenzy on Sunday night. i’d wrapped it in a napkin, put it in a plastic bag, and wrapped that in a teeshirt. it came through the various jostlings and changes in air pressures unscathed. mostly unscathed.
i lit it up. open a coke.
and looked out on the harbor. always, the dark water and the distant lights make me think of the Great Gatsby. which, when reading it for the first time in (junior?) high school — made me think of what the un-advanced new world must have looked like. how the natives saw the same shores.
in the night, i sit, in enforced aimless, workless, worryless quiet. smoking my cigars and wondering what was before and what, pray tell, will come after us?
and that was the beginning and the end of day one.