Back in Savusavu. Aussies or Kiwis peer with flashlights through slits of the dock behind their boat. Aussies or Kiwis with torches, I mean. An engine belt of some kind screams from under the hood of a taxi in the street. A live band plays across the street in a restaurant/bar named Dinner's Paradise, which is grand re-opening, and is having an $8 FJD buffet. So like $4 something US. Here among the pic-a-nic tables an Aussie or Kiwi child runs around and blows a party horn three times over say five minutes; considerable restraint for a boy of maybe eight, I find. He is unattended and has license to blow the party horn all he wants. The Kiwi or Aussies horribly mispronounce their words loudly in what are known as Kiwi or Aussie accents. Native English speakers are very conservative with vowel sounds in the Southern Hemisphere. They only use three, and those three they try to pronounce the same way, often combining them. The engine belt still screams. I sit at a pic-a-nic table that's been painted white, and am drinking a Schweppes Indian Tonic Water. It's seven pm but the sun sets here at five-thirty or so, and it's night by 6. I kayaked here from the boat. Moonless, just now. Ten minutes maybe. To get the laundry. It won't be ready till Monday morning, I'm now told. It's saturday here now. I said that will be fine. That I will be here Monday morning. “Here” is a yacht club called Copra Shed Marina. A Kiwi or Aussie boy wearing an LED headlight throws bread from the dock behind his parents' boat, and the boats of others. Another Kiwi or Aussie girl does the same thing. They all could be Kiwis or Aussies. I cant discern. The boy lays on his stomach, head over the dock, peering into the water, where he has thrown soft bread. He looks for fish. A bearded man carries a dozen eggs by me to the other side of a building. There is nothing on the other side, I have been there. When I say nothing I mean a plastic chair, and old outboard motors, and little else. The engine belt screams. A table of young adults talk and laugh at another pic-a-nic table. At least one of the group is Fijian, and is teaching the young white people Fijian words. The Aussies or Kiwis now know how to say vagina in Fijian, perhaps, but I definitely now know vagina in Aussie (or Kiwi) ends with an R. Aussie and Kiwis really do say G'day, mate. The boy on the dock looks at his hand that he dipped in the water, illuminated by his LED headlight. The band at Dinners Paradise has stopped playing their instruments. An Aussie or Kiwi girl excitedly tells the boy that she sees the big fish. While paddling the kayak over here from the boat I saw a meteor and audibly said “oh my god, wow,” to myself. It was like a roman candle. From down here. The Eagles' Hotel California plays on the Dinners Paradise house speakers. The children have called for and brought their mother from their boat to see the big fish, all with headlights. They point and whisper. At Dinners Paradise the band begins playing again. Rubbery covers of I don't know what songs, like a weirdly familiar person whose bones have turned to suet, skin to unscented wax. The Dinners Paradise clientele cry “yeahhhh!” and clap along with the beat. There is not enough light pollution to obscure a view of the Milky Way. The band at Dinners Paradise are playing a blues song now, harmonica and all. The harmonica sounds like a dizzy harmonica. Heard and understood lyrics: “come back baby,” “_____ git you girl,” etc. The keyboardist plays a solo mainly in the upper register banging a few of the same keys over and over, like in blues songs. This excites the crowd. Someone whistles loudly. Earlier today while dropping off the boat's laundry a Fijian-Indian man told me about a club, and offered to take me there and buy me a drink, maybe lunch. No no no, thank you. But it is a very nice club. No, thank you. Etc. The band at Dinners Paradise plays a reggae song now. Now another blues song. “Baby” is a prominent word, and the singer doesn't want to make Baby lonely, like in blues songs. The singer has Baby's number. Baby has the singer's number too. Baby keep callin on him with that number. The children still look for fish, and have run out of soft bread to offer. Now happy birthday is being played for the benefit of a Brian. The band, perhaps Fijians in general, say “have a long life to you,” as well as “happy birthday to you.” I haven't heard the taxi with the screaming fan belt in some time. Earlier today a shirtless American named Bill told me he was going to take a shower, and where prostitutes could be found. A mermaid with large naked breasts was tattooed on his left bicep. He said he used to have a very nice house somewhere on the east coast of the USA, but now his ex wife has a very nice house somewhere on the east coast of the USA. This was not the first time he said that, I felt. He knew where the house is, but I've forgotten. I said I heard that yeah there are a lot of Chinese prostitutes here. He said yeah whatever you want you can get, that rates vary according to quality if ha ha ha I know what he means. I smiled and nodded. Now the children have a white bucket. Maybe they are trying to hand-fish. A dinghy was spotted drifting far from any boats, earlier today, by a Fijian man named Steve. I kayaked to it, hoping not to find a corpse in it. Hotel California is playing on the house speakers over at Dinners Paradise again. The dinghy was caught in some reef, luckily, and I tied its bow line to the kayak and paddled back. An American wearing a shirt named Bill, not the same Bill who knows about prostitutes, said wooooo Scott! as I returned, dinghy in tow. He would have to buy me a coke, next time, he said. I said yeah okay, and that I was glad there wasn't a corpse in his dinghy. Clark told him I don't drink, he said, and repeated his offer to buy me a coke. I said yeah, okay, cool, etc. He pressed the issue and asked if I did AA, I said no, and asked if he did, he said no, but his wife was into it, and that he goes sometimes, and I said yeah whatever works, but not for me. I truly never know what the date is, or the day of the week, now. A rugby game is on TV in the bar behind me. The Aussies and Kiwis are viscerally affected by the rugby game, wincing and saying oooo, like all are gut punched at once. White men visiting Fiji really do wear floral print shirts. I just realized that there is a mast cabled to the ground, right next to my table here in the courtyard. It's huge of course, very tall. The children have finished looking for fish in the water. I imagine they are in their boat. The band at Dinners Paradise have begun La Bamba. It is the most recognizable song of the evening so far, and the crowd is going wild. The voice of A Kiwi or Aussie sportscaster grinds out of the TV in the bar. The lights in the courtyard here have been turned off.
We've sailed to another Fijian island, a smaller one, but without a map you'd never know that. From a taxi many things were seen, among which were palm trees like these pictured above, and palm trees of course bring to mind The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and I'm reminded of his spirit, which like a trampled blade of grass always rose again regardless of circumstance–oftentimes with a quivering lip in the face of Uncle Phil's chastisements and harsh reprimands, but never bitter, always better, for it. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air understood early on that life was a school of hard knocks, and he became head of the class in that school with his trademark quick wit, facial expressions of incredulity, and verbal japes–sometimes reluctantly, sometimes close to despair–but as we watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mature with each season we saw a boy become a man, as he grew to understand that his Uncle Phil was an embodiment of order; a great big mountain of control –with just as much spirit and thirst for life as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air himself but, contained. Under wraps. Not quashed, not at all, held in check merely, and Uncle Phil's stunning mansion complete with black manservant and family in Bel-Air were the undeniable fruits of this labor of love and restraint, rewards that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air saw first hand as possibilities he too may one day achieve as well, he realized, if he could approach life the way Uncle Phil did, without losing himself and everything that made him so fresh in the process. In one particularly memorable episode, I mean the one that I remember, these two different approaches to life that Uncle Phil and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air respectively brought to bear when interacting to the world were shown to great effect when Carlton and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air both applied to Uncle Phil's alma mater, a very prestigious university, as I recall. Carlton was well established as a hard working student, and though I don't remember any scenes from his bedroom, I can almost see the wall of scholastic prizes, ribbons of extracurricular accomplishment, trophies from chess tournaments, etc.–I imagine Carlton's room to be one of order and achievement, of promise, above all. Like Michael J. Fox's Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties, who had a poster of Richard Nixon on his bedroom wall–though Carlton was largely apolitical, Carlton and Alex were both old souls, conservatively steadfast in their resolve to achieve, well before most teenagers have finished piecing together their identities. Quite the contrast to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a deft move on the writers' part. So when Carlton, the imagined shoe-in for acceptance into Uncle Phil's alma mater was upstaged by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when the admissions recruiter visited the boys' prep school in Bel-Air, you can imagine my surprise, and that of the studio audience, and that of the musical score, when it was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rather than Carlton who got accepted. Here's what happened: Only Carlton was going to be interviewed first, I believe, but as a lark, in typical The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air decided to be interviewed too. Both boys were wearing their high school dinner jackets with the school seal on the breast, but unlike Carlton, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, on one of his whims, turned his jacket inside-out, revealing a wacky dinner jacket lining, a kind of taffeta material, purple, with yellow paisley design. I'm not certain but I'd be surprised if sunglasses and a sideways baseball hat weren't involved as well. The initial incredulity of the recruiter, taken aback as he was by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's zany caprice was quickly supplanted by an impossible to defy admiration for the lad's undeniably fresh antics and contagious joie de vivre, and as no one would have predicted, what began as a bit of fun ended up as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's acceptance to Uncle Phil's Alma Mater. Carlton, in just as surprising a turn of events, was not accepted. Up was down and down was up in Bel-Air. On their return to Uncle Phil's mansion, so overtaken with joy was Uncle Phil with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's acceptance into his alma mater, that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air saw an opportunity, and asked Uncle Phil if he could borrow the car for a night on the town. “Sure,” Uncle Phil unblinkingly responded. Overwhelmed with the ease of the transaction, far from commonplace, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made light of the situation by joking, saying, “I didn't mean your normal car, Uncle Phil, I meant the Jag,” displaying his characteristically light-hearted ribbing of Uncle Phil. To the audience's surprise though, so overjoyed with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's success was Uncle Phil that he again said, “Sure,” with the same prideful gaze, at his awestruck nephew. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air enjoyed a night driving Uncle Phil's Jag, we imagined, and I don't know what Carlton did, but it's likely he was massaging his temples in that pristine bedroom, brows knitted, staring at the unsullied carpet that was surely beneath bis feet, plotting his next move. The following day, Carlton gave up trying to impress the recruiter with his very real scholastic accomplishments, and as his cousin The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did, Carlton turned his prep school dinner jacket inside-out, wore sunglasses indoors, wore a baseball hat in a unique manner, attempted to make light of the interview and life in general, but if anything, copping The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's devil-may-care approach to an important interview made him even less a worthy addition to his father's alma mater. The recruiter, in shocked disbelief, as I remember, dismissed Carlton from the office, and Carlton was reduced to returning, begging, baseball hat in hand, and in the end, both boys were accepted to Uncle Phil's alma mater. I don't know what the lesson was, that's where it all falls apart for me.
My thanks to Margo for helping me remember by telling me that both The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and his cousin Carlton were accepted to Uncle Phil's alma mater; an important detail, though a mixed message, clearly.