Watching the movie “Castaway”, I think anyone got a little emotional when “Wilson”, the soccer ball with the hand-stained face, was adrift in the open ocean. It might have been the character’s (loose) connection with sanity. Now, I’ve never really had that one thing that I held onto for dear life; I’ve never been stranded either. Yet, I have been known to leave ballcaps, bluejeans, and engraved Zippo lighters behind when leaving port. Most of the time, it was a voluntary trade for something unusual such as a Soviet Navy belt buckle. Or a Turkish lighter, an Ecuadorian fishnet hammock and even an Egyptian thobe (male one piece garment).
The USS PETERSON visited the Black Sea on the way back from a Red Sea deployment. We were unaccustomed to being welcomed as tourists; however, the Ukrainians were just as welcoming to American ships visiting Sevastopol. And we had cameras openly, not the kind you see in spy movies set in Eastern Europe, but like tourists from Scotland to Burundi: Japanese models. Like everything else marketed in the early 1990s.
Taking my new camera, I went out to look for amber . I tried to order a Black Russian (vodka and coffee liqueur) in a hotel bar that looked out upon the Black Sea; I had an equally impossible time finding an ice-cold Pepsi. And there were other distractions. Several of us ventured into a nightclub that was a bit of a circus. It featured a woman doing an acrobatic dance floor show that might have been a strip show. Who spoke or read Bulgarian to know from the marquee? Later, I was looking at some Russian znachki, these enameled badges or pins, that were collected in Russia like sports memorabilia or Hard Rock Cafe pins, back in the early 1990s. And walked away only to realize that I didn’t have my camera over my shoulder.
At the waterfront, I found a Port official to report my loss. He spoke no English and I spoke no Bulgarian. But nearly a dozen years after my last college class in Russian, we could haltingly converse about my missing camera in a common language. A few months later, the reply to my inquiry sent to the Canon marketing office in Sophia, Bulgaria was not promising. How many regular people could possibly own a Canon SLR camera in a nation that only had capitalism (glasnost?) for five or so years?
Bulgaria became a hot destination for inexpensive vacations by young western Europeans staying in hotels and hostels. Beachgoers enjoying the Black Sea. Perhaps some young entrepreneur used my camera to start a business. (Babes of the Black Sea?) Marketing ads for amber jewelry. Fashion images for the newest Yuppies. And perhaps my old camera is living there still. Twenty-three years ago I left my heart in Varna, Bulgaria. Well, not really. But I did leave my camera there.
Usain Bolt and Harry Belafonte grew up in my parish – tour bus driver & guide
On a zip-line and rafting tour in Jamaica, the limes, bananas, coconuts, and sugar cane compete with mangroves, towering Hindu bamboo and brightly colored flowering plants for my attention. While zooming through trees up to 40 mph (there are big cushions at the downhill station if the brake and guide fail to stop me) fed my adrenaline-junkie, the afternoon spent on the river was a great way to take in the people and history of Jamaica. The rafting guide explained how various plants have health and medicinal properties – and though Americans sterotypically associated ‘ganja’ with Jamaica, nothing Reginald listed in the average diet included weed.
Patois is the native Jamaican dialect, and after a brief intro, we were all “ai’-ree” (doing well) and affirming questions with “ya, man”. Jamaicans have a deep pride in their country, and while it is very evident that the poorest Americans are richer than most of the population, I think even the “CJs” -Crazy Jamaicans, (self-named) locals who walk in front of moving trucks and buses – would find much of my complaining young countrymen more than foolish. Though this is my first trip in the Caribbean as a civilian, and a first ever to Jamaica, I can see why people return again and again. For me, the food, grog and Cuban cigars are pleasant but bouncing up and down a rocky and muddy road with a group of laughing fellow travelers and guides on the way to rafting is a lasting adventure.
“Put da lime in de coconut, stir it all up” -Jamaican health tip for lowering blood pressure
There are things that we remember from our youth ( or while I was still ‘under 30’) that should be left in those musty corners of our mental garage. Just like the old cassette tape I found during one ‘Spring Cleaning’ out there, hearing the Split Endz again – or 38 Special just doesn’t make me “feel” the same thirty years later. Same thing tonight. A little casual dinner on the couch while watching the beginning of “Highlander” – the one with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert. (I recognized the villain, but I can’t remember his name.) The effects are so rudimentary and the dialogue is rather lame – Sean Connery sounds a Scot but is supposed to be Spanish; however, Chris Lambert – he’s got one of those Kevin Costner-like non-accents due apparently to limited ability to speak English.
Even the swordplay and beheadings are cheesy. I am trying to figure out why that movie spawned sequels and a television series. Men in kilts? Swords? Perhaps it is the decades in the Navy that have colored my judgement. I often let reality get in the way of plot on a lot of alien, superhero, or alien versus battleship dramas. I should have read Mental Floss ‘s review here before I realized a few minutes in that watering the plants and picking up the dog poop was a better use of my time.
I offer a list of dropped must-have guy movies (or TV collections) of the last 30 years. Some I don’t get why I liked them in the first place. I don’t have either on DVD or nor recorded on the DVR:
- Top Gun (I still can watch Minority Report – for Max Von Sydow ) Cruise movies annoy me
- Die Hard (sequels) ( the first was a classic, then they just kept coming)
- Highlander ( love Connery, but fast-forward 20 years to see how comic book-type movies are made WELL)
- Smokey and the Bandit ( Gleason’s last films, but such a dumb plot!)
- Battlestar Galactica (1978) (Lorne Greene still Cartwright for me !)
- Star Trek (only one of those movies I’ll watch again is Wrath of Khan with Monteban – I saw the original TV episode and loved the movie.) However, the reboot movies with Chris Pine are great!
- Talledega Nights ( now I wonder why I thought Ferrell was funny)
- X-men after the first one. I cannot keep up with the comic book plot jumps)
- Outlaw Josey Wales ( I prefer the Eastwood movies he’s made since 2000)
- Taken. I liked Liam Neeson’s portrayals in Star Wars, the villain in Batman Begins, and Taken -even Love, Actually. Then he just annoyed me with his Taken sequels and his anti-gun off-screen preaching.
I think I need to watch Gladiator, Lone Survivor, and any of the movies that Sam Elliott was in. Testosterone, guts, courage and attitude. What we need now more than ever are heroes: dads who want to raise their children responsibly, people who recognize the effort and support the work of cops, volunteers to help our senior citizens and young people who don’t want a hand out, or a “safe space”.