Food and Thought
Godfrey, a pencil sketch by Judith Lindenau
It’s dinnertime. I am starving. Ever since Claymore showed up today (a month later than promised) to hook up my internet, I’ve been sitting here at the computer catching up on my emails and paying bills. I must say this connection is slick, and probably faster than my DSL at home. Almost makes me forget how angry I was that had the cable tv hookup, but not the internet. (I don’t even HAVE a tv down here, nor do I want one…..)
Anyway, getting Claymore here wasn’t easy, either. Turns out Bahamas Cable has the wrong phone number listed in the phone book, for starters. And secondly, the ‘free’ number, once you get it right, doesn’t work on cell phones. And thirdly, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings are the only times Bahamas Cable has a service rep in the Tarpum Bay area.
I found all this out by going next door to Miss Barbie’s little restaurant and soliciting the assistance of her daughter, who is not only smart but beautiful and helpful. Claymore came on Thursday, plugged things in, and told me he was Irish. I don’t look surprised at these declarations anymore: like the McIntires and the McKinneys, Claymore has darkly burnished skin and no evidence of red hair. He does, however, have blue-green eyes and is built like a professional fullback. So, like any good Celtic musician, I whip out my whistles and play a round of Dick Gossip’s reel. We parted friends, vowing to have a St. Patrick’s Day celebration right here in Eleuthera…
Then my work began…emails gathering dust for a week. “Buffers are overflowing”, Outlook informed me. Do tell!
I had checked out the night’s menu at Miss Barbie’s when I was there earlier: chicken, pork chops, conch fingers, and ribs. Plus the usual sides: slaw, peas and rice, and macaroni and cheese. Barbie doesn’t vary the main menu much, but it’s always good, and a full plate (good for two meals for me) is about $10. But her door is locked! Even though there’s an ‘Open’ sign on the door. I hear lots of racket in the kitchen; maybe she’s just in the throes of cooking. In any case, I am too hungry to wait.
I walk down the hill to the new ‘fish restaurant’. It may have a name, but it doesn’t have a sign, so I have no clue as to what to call it. But I do remember that the food was quite good when I was here in October. As I near the place, I see that Godfrey is sitting outside on the picnic table, talking politics with Mike, the white guy from Illinois. Mike is stimulating his argument with Kalik beer, the Bahamian brew favored around these parts. Godfrey, as usual, needs no encouragement to talk.
The impetus of the discussion is the fact that the local authorities have closed down the restaurant. Godfrey is incensed: it’s because the proprietress was behind in her paperwork. “She could lose as much as $200 over the weekend,” he rages. “It isn’t fair.” Mike agrees. “It’s the government,” he says.
(I later hear that the issue is a bit more complicated than that: it seems that Diane the owner hasn’t paid her liquor license renewal fees, and so the authorities confiscated her booze supply until she pays up. Of course, if that’s true, she should still serve food, I would think…)
At any rate, Godfrey offers to take me to Papa George’s Pizza and Internet Cafe, which is about a half mile down the road, next to Godfrey’s house. It is well that Godfrey should offer: George is his son, and his restaurant is not busy at all.
I like George. He’s a pizza proprietor, but he is also a writer and poet, a big bear of a man who has a degree in electronics from an upstate New York college. He’s a bit of a disappointment to Godfrey, I think: George is not the hard living, swinging guy his dad is rumored to have been. I ask George if he’s done any writing lately, and he says he’s lacking in inspiration. “Discipline,” he says. “I should write every day, but I can’t.”
“Besides,” he continues, “my writing responds to passion. And I don’t have any passion in my life right now.”
“Difficult to get passionate about pizza,” I agree.
Godfrey suggests we wait for the pizza next door at his house, so I can visit with his wife, Mizpah. I’d never been to the Major’s home before, and I hadn’t seen Mizpah on this trip, so I was happy to wander over and sit in their crowded, comfortable living room with overstuffed couches and a huge TV. Mizpah’s house is spotless, as I would have expected, and she’s cooking something in a big pot and talking on the phone to a church friend about some retired missionaries who are coming from Idaho to spend the remainder of the winter.
We visit for a while, discussing the unfairness of the authorities shutting down Tarpum Bay restaurants. We also talk about the Major’s granddaughter, who’s 12 and needs to go to Nassau in April to a special needs boarding school. “She doesn’t want to go,” Mizpah explains. “Who would?” I think. She’s surrounded by loving grandparents and a welcoming household, on a beautiful island.
As I am leaving, Mizpah gives me some huge homemade hot dogs—one of her sons works in a meat processing plant in Nassau and these are very prized gifts from him. I pick up my pizza and frozen hot dogs and climb in Godfrey’s taxi for the short ride to my house.
Holding the fragrant flat box in my lap, I decide it really isn’t too difficult to get passionate over pizza.