March 12,2007

Flying Continental Airlines is an experience I am not eager to repeat in the near future. I’ve just returned from a twelve day visit with my mom and brother Steve(four of those days) in West Palm Beach, Florida and Hopetown, Bahamas.

My flight out from Portland was delayed sufficiently enough that by the time I landed in Houston to make my connection on to WPB I had less than five minutes to make the flight. Lucky for me the gate I arrived in was literally next door to the gate I was departing from… I was the next to last person to board, in fact they had reopened the doors for those of us arriving from Portland. Needless to say my bag didn’t make the flight that night.

In WPB while making a delayed bag claim with Continental, I found out the earliest flight in from Houston would be 11 AM the next morning. We were to fly out at 9AM for Marsh Harbour in the Abaco’s. Hmmmnn no worries the woman told me, since I was flying on a Continental they could just forward my bag to Marsh Harbour and put it on the ferry to Hopetown the next day. Dubious but ever hopeful I had no choice but to settle for her assurances.

Friday morning mom and I arrived at WPB at 7:30 figuring we had lots of time before leaving at 9…yup we had lots of time alright…our flight was delayed until 11:30 AM, they even let a flight scheduled for 10:30 leave without us because a flight crew, translate pilot,who rumour had it, had over slept ,was being replaced by another one and so we had to wait for them?
I beg your pardon?

At any rate I thought with the delay perhaps a silver lining had been granted to me. My bag might make it with me after all!

The harried ground hostess who was frantically trying to reach her baggage crew without any success as our departure time loomed suggested I ask the Captain as I was boarding if I could check for my “expedited” bag. No go, he wouldn’t let me look, so I had no choice but to board and keep my fingers crossed.

Arriving at Marsh Harbour International Airport is like arriving in an outback backwater.
Redundant sounding I know but it fits the bill.
I like to think everyone means well, but like a lot of holiday sunspots things are somewhat laidback.
I have my own issues with customs but we were able to get through fairly easily…to claim our bags I went outside through the door on the left just the other side of the customs and immigration area to find a pile of bags that had been dropped off with no one attending to them. Like I said things are a little more relaxed here in the Bahamas….unfortunately mom’s bag was the only familiar one in the baggage claim area…

I hauled it up to the counter as the immigration/customs agent took a long look at my mom in a wheelchair, then at her zipped bag, while I explain to her that my bag has been delayed. Go ahead says she… without a glance inside…good thing…we weren’t really sure how we would explain the six film canisters of dad tucked neatly into a side pocket of mom’s bag.

The gal pushing mom’s wheelchair hustled her into a taxi while I went inside next door to the Continental ticket counter, which is sandwiched literally between, American Airlines, an open door to the planes, and Bahamasair in a space about the size of your average bed room…10 x 15. That isn’t including the rest of the other airlines,waiting room benches, or snack bar filling the other side of the larger part of a 20 x 30 room. Things were scrunchy but friendly.

Everything happens at the one counter so I waited patiently even when the semi frantic taxi driver came in looking for me while I was still waiting to talk to someone.
(Apparently, as I found out later, the meter starts running as soon as you enter the cab so I was unwittingly cutting into his fare time)
Finally got to speak with someone and was assured the bag would be on the next flight and ferry into Hopetown. Continued hopefulness on my part…silly girl.

Off we went to the ferry dock where a very nice couple Bob and Carol Carter (no Ted and Alice by the way) had offered to organize a charter ferry to Hopetown instead of waiting for the scheduled one a couple of hours later.

Yessss….

Ah, the smell of the sea,the salt water, the familiar turquoise Abaco sea and looming in the distance the candy striped Lighthouse of Hopetown. It feels good if not a little odd being back.

But wait what are these monstrosities along the horizon? Huge two,three storey homes rising up from the coral island,brightly painted blue,yellow,pink,mauve.
Later in the week we heard one of them actually had an elevator put in it!
An ELEVATOR in it?
Say WHAT?
This is Hopetown not Park Ave…and even if there isn’t an elevator what’s with the 1,2,3,4 and half million dollar price tags on these homes in the quaint little hurricane hole of Hopetown.
Wow big changes are certainly afoot!

The Harbour looks the same sort of…it’s almost as if every buildable square inch of the place has got a home on it. Everything is cleaned up, painted neatly, a little too “twee” for me and yet it still retains some of its old charm.
Gone are the unpainted decrepit shack/cottages that the old Loyalists called home. Old fishing nets,garbage,bits of motors or bicycles or other paraphernalia are nowhere to be seen in the back yards of the new Hopetown.

Not that the clean up is bad, it just feels a whole lot different.
I mean there is even a coffee shop there now. Not Starbucks but who knows when it might appear… things will really be in trouble then.

The harbour itself is filled with more stinkpot type motor homes on the water than sailboats these days. As one astute old timer noted “it does take a degree of skill to sail” compared to deep pockets for a large runabout. Haha

And yet..and yet..the sun shone brilliantly the whole time we were there, the white sand beaches are still lovely,the breeze coming off the ocean tricks you into thinking it’s going to be cold but it isn’t. Just another shitty day in Paradise as one Wilbar Dawhoyte might proclaim!

We stayed at our friends home which once belonged to Mom and Dad but has since been lovingly renovated to accommodate their ever growing family of children,spouses and grandchildren.

It was an odd sensation for Mom especially coming back to Hopetown without Dad, her partner in crime so to speak. She missed him a lot, even if she didn’t exactly articulate it that way. She kept remarking how funny it felt to be there, how she wanted to turn to him and say “Charlie look who’s here, or you’ll never guess what I saw or who I saw.”
I noticed how anxious she seemed to be even after we had spread his ashes into the three H’s…the Hocean,the Hibiscus and the Harbour..
In ‘opetown, H’s are dropped and added at will.

She didn’t want to tell anyone and then proceeded to tell everyone why we were there. Sometimes discreetly other times she would blurt it out as if she couldn’t get it from her lips fast enough. Steve seemed to get short with her but then again he spends a great deal more time with her then the rest of us so maybe it’s his way of coping.
Speaking of Steve he had his own saga of “getting to Hopetown”.

We were to both meet the night before in WPB and fly over all together the next morning. Ice, snow, sleet, and general flying nastiness was his undoing. Not one but two of his flights were cancelled, so he rerouted through Miami to meet us the next day in the Bahamas.
Except his flights were also delayed and while he indeed did make it to Hopetown later on Friday, his bag didn’t.

Of course Mom and I were both scratching our heads as to why he would have checked a bag when he was only coming for the weekend.
More film canisters with ashy substances he claimed.
By the time it finally arrived…which was the day before he left…he was scratching his own head wondering why he had bothered to have packed the four pairs of shoes or six pairs of underwear….however excellent timing on the part of the airlines!

Thankfully Mike and Ro had some clothes that fit each of us so we weren’t in jeans the whole time. At least I wasn’t.

My bag finally did arrive….about 56 hours after I had put it on the TSA cart in Portland. Never was I so happy to see my bathing suit! Or my deodorant!

Mom and I enjoyed a few extra days which allowed for more visiting on her part and beach walking on mine.
We flew back to Florida with out any problems and spent the rest of the time getting sorted out for her next batch of visitors,Uncle Bob, Aunt Liz and cousin Debb.

One highlight of the visit was going to the Norton museum in Palm Beach where an exhibit of Iris Barrel Apfel haute couture designs was on display. Mom and I had each seen it advertised separately and yet it both reminded us of two of the same people, Aunt Helen Lawson and Jeanie Matthew.
Both classic women in their own rights with fabulous design sense.

Iris is still alive at 85,wears glasses bigger than Elton John’s and isn’t afraid to combine flea market finds with high end fashion names like Nina Ricci, Oscar de la Renta,and her favourite John Galliano. Her accessories motto is instead of taking off something as you leave the house add something. Or as Ted Whelan used to say More is More!

The other fab exhibit there is a Dale Chihuly ceiling of Persian Sealife. Fantastic! Worth the price of admission alone.