The cruise ship stopped in Aruba on one trip back to Venezuela as I recall and it was damn hot, the noonday sun glared in a cloudless tropical sky and beat down and the humidity was only slightly bearable because of a constant hot breeze and there was nothing that you could see from the ship's decks but one barren hill and a few scrub trees which were leaning in one direction. If you glanced out to sea, you had to squint as the bright sun reflected off an almost still ocean. Aruba was not one of my favorite stops.

As a 10 year old kid, I had a definite attitude about life at that time and I was beginning to notice things that I hadn't in my earlier years....

If you stayed on board, you could either watch the cargo being off-loaded or loaded and listen to the winches howl and the hatches clang and bang as they opened the cargo holds and then there was the monotony of the booms swinging back and forth with the slings of cargo. Mom and Dad were in their cabin taking their usual siesta. The dock was non-descript and offered little of interest....and then....there were was the Calypso band on the game deck. I first heard the metallic rhythm of the steel drums faintly over the sound of the winches and I worked my way from the bow area back towards the stern to the game deck---you know, where they played shuffleboard.

There was a crowd of adults standing in a tight circle around some activity while the small steel band played. The members of the band were young muscular black men wearing skimpy shorts who concentrated on beating their drums, beating out some tune that I wasn't familiar with. The sweat rolled down their bodies. I nudged my way in between the adults, many of which had beer or mixed drinks in their hands and you could tell they had been drinking for a while and they did not pay any attention to me as they concentrated on the activity. In the center of the group were two young, bare-footed, black dancers – a young scantily dressed woman and a similarly attired young man and they were taking turns dancing under a wooden pole held by two members of the audience.

Now, picture this if you will….the woman had a bikini top and was in my opinion well endowed and as she leaned way back and shook her shoulders to the rhythm of the drums, her breasts shaking, barely staying under the bikini top she worked her way beneath the pole with her legs spread wide apart revealing her red underwear beneath her minimal flowered skirt so that she could clear the pole.

Fascinating it was….. I watched the sweaty faces of the older married men who pressed in from the sides of the circles and saw an unusual look on their faces as they concentrated on the woman and they cheered loudly as she cleared the pole.

Likewise, her young muscular male partner went through the same routine with the pole lower this time and his body glistened with sweat as he pumped his way beneath the pole and his groin covered by skimpy shorts was thrust out for the world to see…. and this time the married women in their long patterned, pleated cotton dresses leaned discreetly forward and cheered as he successfully cleared the pole…..

So I watched the circling dancers and the audience for a while, but being 10 years old, I quickly lost interest and wandered away, but I did not loose the memory of what I had seen or heard that day – I think it was supposed to be no apta. It was 1954 and I had more growing up to do.

And that's the way it was.

 

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