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