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March 1, 2013     Post-Gazette
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March 1, 2013

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POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 1,2013 Page13 00Babb00nonno Last week, I had left off telling a story about the Dominican Republic and va- cationing there one Febru- ary school vacation. A fellow teacher and I were at the Hotel Hamaca in Boca Chica, a small coastal town about 15 miles from the capital, Santo Domingo. The town was so small, we had to drive to the capital each night for excitement, and we did. Upon returning one evening, my friend knocked on my bed- room door asking me to look out his window. My room faced the ocean and his, the land side of the hotel. I headed to his room, looked out the window and saw flickers of light coming from the jungle growth in the dis- tance. I also heard jungle drums beating out a rhythm pattern and chanting from a group of voices. My curious companion and I decided to investigate. We headed down to the front entrance of the hotel and asked the shotgun carrying guard what he thought. He wasn't responsive, but told us that if we were going to investigate, we should carry large sticks in case there were any wild dogs around. He had the weapons avail- able and we borrowed then and then headed down the road following the direction of the light and sound. When we cut into the jungle, there were no paths and we pushed our way through the growth using moonlight to assist us. We followed the direction of the flickering light assuming it was a campfire. As we got closer, through the clearing we could see people dancing around a fire and chanting as if in a group trance. They were all dressed in white and had what looked like white powder or makeup on their faces and hands. We quietly worked our way through the thicket and just as we approached the clearing, my friend tripped on something, stumbled forward and wound up standing in the middle of the dancers who sur- rounded the campfire. The drumming stopped and the chanting became a whisper. As the entire crowd viewed my friend, they began to scream and run. The drum- mers picked up their conga drums and disappeared along with the rest. The next scene was the two of us standing next to the campfire all by ourselves. I looked at my friend and felled, "Let's get the hell out by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I of here!" We retraced our steps and found our way to the main road and headed back toward the hotel. On the way back, we saw a pack of wild dogs, but they left us alone. Our sticks were ready in case we were attacked, but nothing hap- pened. When we arrived at the hotel, the guard that had given us the sticks opened the wrought iron gate and let us in. His double barrel shot gun by his side, just in case. We thanked him and he could tell that we had seen something out of the ordinary just by the looks on our faces. He just nodded in the negative and we headed up to our rooms in the penthouse. The next morning, I asked to see, Charlie, the hotel owner. When he showed up, we were eating breakfast and he joined us for a cup of coffee. We told him the story of what we had experi- enced the night before. He shook his head telling us that he was a Cuban by way of Miami and asked the waiter, a Dominican, to help us out with an explanation. The man was Dominican, but looked African just like the people we saw around the campfire the night be- fore. He started to laugh and then began an explanation of what had happened the night before, "Those people might have been French- speaking Dominicans, prob- ably originally from Haiti. They practice Voodoo even though it is outlawed in this country. You two stumbled into one of their s6ances and (pointing to my friend} you must have been mistaken for one of their gods ... one that was probably going to take them away." My friend and I looked at each other in wonder until the waiter con- tinued his explanation, "You see, one of their gods is a giant with white skin and very curly yellow or blond hair. In their hypnotic state, you must have fit the image and they ran out of fear." You see, my companion on that trip, John Kohler, was a former football player with the Denver Broncos. He was 6' 7" and had curly blond hair. His career was over due to a knee injury and he came home and began teaching in the Boston schools. By the looks of him, he fit the image of one of their Voodoo gods. John, Charlie the hotel owner, and I had a good laugh about what had happened and as -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 I had told the folks I would call home that day, I knew I had a good story for them. After breakfast, I called the house via the overseas operator and got Babbononno on the phone. I told him the story. He mentioned that when he was a young man in the Italian marines trav- eling in Africa, he had heard similar stories about their gods and added that some of their descendents in the islands of the Caribbean still practiced what the Haitians called Voodoo. My mother next got on the phone and after I told her the story, asked me if I was wearing my sweater at night. "Ma, I'm in the tropics. I don't need a sweater at any time down here." She was OK with that and we said goodbye. My friend and I went scuba diving a little later in the day. There was a barrier reef on the ocean side of the hotel which prevented sharks from coming near, but didn't prevent smaller fish from visiting. I had an under- water camera and took lots of pictures of the sea life that called the bar- rier reef their home. As I swam around a reef, I came face to face with a barracuda who was coming my way. We looked at each other and we both then made an about face and headed in opposite directions. I knew that if that fish had some relatives with him, I might have been in trouble. That afternoon, a honey- mooning American couple we had met at the hotel asked if we were heading to Santo Domingo. We were and since they didn't have a rented car, they joined us. I had heard that Columbus was buried below the altar of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and wanted to visit the church. (I've visited a cathedral in Spain that claims the same thing. I don't know which story is true or whether part of the explorer went to rest in Spain and another part in Santo Domingo. Later, we visited the home of Diego Colon, the son of Christo- pher Columbus. (Colon is Columbus in Spanish) Today it is a museum and has artifacts from the Columbus family and several docu- ments written by the ex- plorer from Genoa himself. It was worth the visit. Accidently, I found an indoor flea market and decided to do some shopping for gifts. I bought jewelry for a couple of lady friends and Morn, Dad and Babbononno had asked me about Domini- can cigars before I left home, and I took the hint. Back then, they were rather inex- pensive and I bought several boxes that I thought we could enjoy. All in all, we had fun and a couple of strange adventures, but in the end, I was glad to be home. GOD BLESS AMERICA Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) been blowing up the Boston scene with their epic pop/ rock style. Since their first show a year ago, Me vs. Grav- ity released a self-produced, self-titled seven-song EP. The music video for the EP's lead single, Walls now has more than 200,000 views on YouTube. With a strong online presence, a bombas- tic live show, and a drive like no other, Me vs. Gravity is a force to be reckoned with. This show also features Melanie Lynx and Carly Tefft. WBGO Presents: The Checkout @ Berklee -- Walter Smith III on Thurs- day, March 7 th at 8:00 pm. New York's WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM and NPR Music proudly present year two of The Checkout -- Live at Berklee. Critically acclaimed, New York-based performers re- turn to their Berklee roots and perform for the world from Boston's Cafe 939. Tonight's concert features Walter Smith III with Taylor Eigsti, Harish Raghavan and Clarence Penn. To date, he has appeared on more than 75 recordings that are re- leased worldwide. He is cur- rently signed to Concord Records and is working on a new project. A Great Big World, Lily & the Parlour Tricks and the Jacob Jeffries Band will all share the spotlight on Fri- day, March 8 th at 8:00 pm. A Great Big World is the new incarnation of lan Axel and Chad Vaccarino. Axel is known for 2011's viral hit This Is the New Year, which solidified him as an indic pop presence with stag- gering YouTube views and numerous songs on film and television. This show also features the sounds of Lily & The Parlour Tricks and Jacob Jeffries Band. The Red Room Caf6 939 is located at Berklee College of Music, 1140 Boylston Street in Boston. For further infor- mation on tickets and show times you can call 617-747- You can catch Jazz Legend Walter Smith III on stage at Cafe' 939. Photo courtesy of: 2261 or visit the website at A Little Tasty Treat to Complement Your Time in the City .... Douzo Modern Japanese Restaurant and Lounge. Douzo Restaurant em- braces the concept of wel- coming guests. When diners enter this stylish restaurant in the heart of Boston's Back Bay -- steps away from the South End and the Theater District -- they are imme- diately enveloped in earth tones, rich dark wood and the airiness of high ceilings reverberating with the en- ergy and excitement of the space. The lively bar area is a popular gathering spot of- fering a selection of cock- tails, sake, wine and beer. Guests look on as the team of chefs creates cutting-edge sushi dishes or they settle into an experience of award- winning cuisine in the main dining area. From the knowledgeable and attentive waitstaff to charismatic owner Jack Huang's plea- sure at meeting diners, ex- pect the comfort of being warmly welcomed at Douzo. Douzo is located at 131 Dartmouth Street in Boston. You can contact them at 617-859-8886 for hours and reservations. The Federal Trade Commission works for the consumer to prevent fraud and deception. Call ]-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-3824357) or log on to