Paradise Island, Bahamas
Our cabbie took off from the airport without asking us where to go. Change100 was slightly concerned, but I reassured her that everything was cool. He was obviously engrossed in the middle of an important phone call. I tried to put together what he was saying, but it was a combination of English and Bahamanian Creole.
After driving about five minutes the driver put his call on hold. He turned around and apologized to us, before he asked for our intended destination. I blurted out Atlantis' Coral Towers. He nodded and repeated what I said before he quickly returned to his call. His conversation lasted for only a couple of more minutes.
"My bookie," he tried to explain, which he didn't have to.
I really didn't give two shits. I'm the last passenger on the island that would want to disrupt a transaction between a man and his bookie.
"I wanted Pick 4 tickets," he said as he passed a slow moving pickup. "Florida and New York."
Wow, a lottery degen. That's hardcore. I didn't ask if he wanted an actual ticket or if this was some sort of side action, like the mob running numbers back in the old neighborhood. Somethings in life I don't want to know about.
The cabbie pulled into Atlantis and I tipped him fairly decent, enough that he tried to sell me a bag of blow. I politely declined. Do you know the six words that aptly describes cocaine from the Caribbean? Clumps together, but only cut once.
It's hard to be anything but a tourist in a place like Atlantis.
I pride myself on being a traveler, and not one of those gaudy tourists in floral print shirts clashing against their pinkish sunburned skin sipping tropical drinks while carrying around a mass market paperback. It is nearly impossible to blend in with the locals in the Bahamas. If anything, I feel like a parasite contributing to the downfall of modern society perpetuating neo-colonialism. The capitalist inside my head reminds me that hundreds if not thousands of Bahamanians would be without jobs if this monstrosity of a beach resort was not constructed on a small patch of coral and sand.
In many ways, the island's original name of Hog Island seems more appropriate than it's re-branded name of Paradise Island. Paradise seems elusive when you're paying $25 for a cheeseburger. I feel more like a hog rooting around in its own feces than someone in search of spiritual revitalization. I blame David Foster Wallace's remarkable essay about his experience on a cruise ship for ruining whatever fun I should be having. DFW made me question the stark fact that most vacation destinations are by definition gaudy and would be a hell of a lot better if tourists were not even there. I can't help but wonder what the island would look like without the resort -- I imagined only two shacks sprinkled along the beach, one that only sells conch and the other that had bottles of Kalik, the local brew, sitting in semi-lukewarm buckets of water.
When I took a long stroll on the beach with my girlfriend, I tried to imagine that we were all alone, just the two of us, feet sinking into the moist white sand with every step and dodging the run off of the waves. That illusion only lasted for a few fleeting moments before reality returned and I felt sorry for the lifeguard, who resembled a sherpa bundled up in a wool hat and several layers of clothing. He didn't look like someone ready to dart into the water and rescue a tourist from a shark attack. Then again, no one was actually swimming in the water because it was too cold and way to windy. The lifeguard's biggest challenge was avoiding frostbite.
* * * * *
I haven't been here for 30 hours and I already acquired two hangovers and ran up a $1,000 tab that included meals, booze, Big Deuce debts, and a redunkulous roaming charge for using my wireless aircard for less than 15 minutes.
The intertubes in the Bahamas are a problem. In one way, I'm sorta glad that the internet connection also operates on island time, which is a polite way of saying "slow as snail shit." I'm in a rare situation where I'm actually on vacation and not really here on an assignment. This trip came together at the last moment. On the day after Christmas, my girlfriend won a seat via PokerStars to the PCA Ladies Event. Well, so much for me taking the first month of 2011 to edit and re-write a novel. Back on the road again, but this time for a little fun in the sun as I welcomed the opportunities to unplug for long batches of time. Between the alphabet news stations and the static on Twitter, my brain has been turned to mush. Sure, I'm dicking around on my laptop to write, but I've practically shed my morbid attachment to the CrackBerry...for now.
Alas, for the majority of online poker players, one of the toughest aspects of the PCA is the horrendous internet situation. By now, everyone knows that the lobby in the Coral Towers has become a haven for online pros, however, the origins of the daily/nightly gatherings has less to do with the fact that they wanted to bond together as a group, and more to do with the fact that the wifi only works in the lobby. The social aspect had become of byproduct of the desire to have a steady connection without timing out in the middle of a hand.
One Team PokerStars Pro mentioned to Change100 that they rejected an offer to stay in the swankiest hotel in the complex called The Cove. Running at almost $1,000 a night, the rooms at The Cove are among the most elegant in the world. But for that price, you still can't get a decent internet connection that is barely a step below a "dial up" connection. Instead, the team pro opted for a different hotel down the road because it had a more stable and consistent internet connection. It's hard to argue against their needs, because if you earn the majority of your income via the internet, then it goes without saying that you need the fastest and most reliable connection around.
Aside from a steady internet hookup, marijuana is the other most sought after item on the island. With the exception of Jamaica, the Caribbean is not what you would call the golden triangle of Mary Jane. You'd be lucky to score a baggie of ditch weed from your cabbie moonlighting as a dealer.
I wasn't even here a few hours when a dozen of my friends in the media mentioned that several players were looking for me. As my buddies Waffles explained during my last trip to Vegas, "You're the pot Jesus."
I showed up empty-handed because although I might be a known drug fiend, I'm not a drug dealer. That did not deter random online pros in desperate search of bud. I arrived at the tail end of the PCA, and at this juncture, everyone is jonesin' hard. They either blew through their stash or have been unsuccessful procuring the local produce. I told one kid, who held more cash in his pocket than I make in six months as a writer, that he should use some of his bankroll to buy an adjacent cay and set up a pot farm. I know plenty of growers in Colorado who would be happy to act as their consultant.
Whoever figures out how to create a steady wifi connection in the Bahamas and/or starts up a pot farm on one of the old plantations is gonna become a multi-millionaire overnight.