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August 23, 2013

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POST-GAZETTE, AUGUST 23, 2013 Page13 abb onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance Last week, I was talking about my first time in the Dominican Republic when Sal Meli and I flew into a revolution without knowing anything about it. Four years later, I had the opportunity to head back there for a Feb- ruary school vacation. Sal couldn't make it that winter, but a fellow teacher showed interest and decided to join me. A friend who worked at a Latin American travel agency booked me at the Ho- tel Hamaca in the town of Boca Chica, about an hour from the capital city of Santo Domingo. She told me that the hotel had a beautiful beach with a barrier reef just off shore that kept the sharks at a distance. I said OK and on that Friday evening when school let out for the February vacation, we were on a flight to Santo Domingo. A Hertz rental was waiting for me when we landed, and we headed for Boca Chica and the Hotel Hamaca. When we checked in, the rooms we were expecting were not ready and we were given the penthouse of the four story hotel. Part of it was being refurbished, but the two main bedrooms were not involved and my companion and I unpacked for a week in the sun and surf. The only problem was that there was nothing in Boca Chica, just a hairdresser, a small res- taurant, a police station, a grocery store and a public square with a TV for every- one without one to watch at their convenience. As a re- suit, for entertainment, we had to drive into Santo Domingo each night, almost an hour away. There were only two guests at the hotel with cars and everyone seemed to be- come our close friends. The other couple that had the other car were Dominicans from New York City. The man ran one of those "Going Out of Business" stores" in Times Square that sold tourist junk. The rest of the guests, who were not Do- minicans were on their hon- eymoon, there were Ameri- cans who asked when we were heading to Santo Domingo so they could hitch a ride from us. One was an American girl who was un- der psychiatric care and dis- played the behavior that in- dicated she should stay there. There was another young couple who were stiffs. They wanted every- thing to be American in what was a laid back Latin envi- ronment. My new friend and I discussed the situation, but his wife insisted we help out the people without cars and we had the folks I de- scribed join us when we went to Santo Domingo. Lent was coming early that winter and Ash Wednesday was that week. My friends from New York had been in- vited to a Mardi Gras party (Carnival) at the palace of 4, the Mayor of Santo Domingo. They were related if I re- member correctly. They ob- tained invitations for my friend and me and we said no to the others looking for rides. It was after 1:00 am when we left the party and headed back to Boca Chica. About five minutes after I was in bed, my companion knocked on my door. He asked if I would come to his room which faced the for- ested area near the hotel. My room faced the ocean. After entering, he said, "Look out the window and lis- ten." I could see fli(kers of light in the distance and could hear jungle drums beating a continuous rhythm. My friend asked what it was and I explained that it might be a Voodoo Ceremony. Voodoo was, and I think still is, against the law in the Dominican Republic. Even though about 3/4ths of the Dominican population is of African or mixed African-Spanish ori- gins, their culture is basi- cally Spanish and Voodoo is from Haiti, with African roots and outlawed. In spite of this, it was practiced in parts of the island especially among the poor. My friend wanted to head out and see what was going on. The guard at the front of the hotel gave me a loaded shotgun and told us to be careful. We headed toward the sound of the drums and into the jungle following the sounds and the flickers of light. When we got close enough to see what was going on, we saw people dressed in white with white powder or flour on their hands and faces. Many of them were dancing alound the fire in a trance while others played the druns for them. My friend stumbled or tripped on something and wound up standing in the middle of the Voodoo cer- emony. The participants saw him, let out gurgling cries and screams and the next thing that was evident was that we were the only two outsiders there. We left in almost as much of a hurry as did the Voodoa wor- shipers. When we were back at the hotel, I gave the shotgun back to the guard, and seeing it was now about 4:00 am, we headed for our respective rooms and some sleep. The next morning we sat at the outdoor caf6 of the ho- tel which was actually on the beach. Along came the ho- tel owner and I called him over to ask him if he could explain what had happened the night before. He told us that he was Cuban and not god that is a light skinned giant with curly blond hair and when they saw him, fig- ured he was there for a rea- son, maybe to take them away. We laughed and the manager left. You see, my friend was a former NFL foot- ball player who returned to Boston for knee surgery which didn't work out too well. As a result, his football days were over and he became a coach in the Bos- ton Schools. He was 6'7", had light skin and had blond curly hair. He was a Voodoo- god come to Earth. Later that day, we were sleeping on the beach and the hotel owner's wife woke us up to introduce us to two airline stewardesses who were taking time off from their jobs. They were both from Puerto Rico, spoke En- glish, they were our age and quite attractive. All thoughts of things Haitian and all things Voodoo were put on a back burner and we now had two more riders who could join us on our evening jour- neys to Santo Domingo. I bought presents for my folks and Babbononno before I left the country and my friend bought everything a tourist might buy. He got T- shirts, a Dominican Flag and Dominican Rum, which by the way, isn't bad at all. I bought cigars at the little grocery store near the hotel. Dad, Babbononno and I en- joyed a good cigar (I still do). Looking at the display of ci- gars, I asked the store's owner the prices. He replied, "I have expensive ones and cheap ones." I asked how much the expensive ones were and he replied, "Twelve cents." When I asked about the cheap cigars, he said, "Six cents." I bought several boxes. Late that Sunday night we went through customs in New York and then took the last shuttle to Logan. Our parents picked us up and we divided all the things we bought before we left the air- port. I don't know about my friend, but I had several good stories about the Dominican Republic that would go rather well with a sip of Dominican rum and a good Dominican cigar. Morn liked the stories, Dad and Babbononno appre- ciated them, too, but only with the rum glasses filled and the cigars lit. GOD BLESS AMERiCA sure. He called over the day manager who happened to be passing by and we related the story of the night before. He began to laugh when we finished and said, "They thought your friend was one of their gods that had come down to Earth. They have,a i:iliiiiiiiabe tiiadve !ngiiniiiii ii!iii!iiiiiiiiiii ! fhe! !P t ii: !j!! iii i!!iiiiii ; ii i'i;ii o 91 :ii!i!iii!iil;'iii!:ili Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) The musical Wicked is on stage at the Boston Opera House through September 15th and been wowing audiences since its opening in early August. (Photo courtesy of Dispatch.corn) project is to expand the space of painting and drawing into six collaborative disciplines: architecture, city planning, video, performance, theater, and music -- all while still retaining properties unique to painting and drawing. The continuous growth in the city of Boston is very im- portant to the preservation as well as progress. If you would like more information on this project feel free to visit Or call the ICA at 617-478-3100. News Briefs (Continued from Page I) According to him when inter- viewed on a Las Vegas TV interview, Republicans want the president to fail and he then added he hoped "that's based on substance and not the fact that he's African- American. I think Reid can sleep easy knowing that the approval rating of 42 percent for President Obama has nothing to do with race. Af- ter all, the unemployment rate of African-Americans has held steady at about 21 percent for some time now. Oh, by the way, is this the same Harry Reid from 2008 who said Baraek Obama had a great chance of win- ning because he was "light skinned" and spoke with "no negro dialect'? Harry Reid can stop worry- ing and cease his racial mud- slinging as Investors Busi- ness Daily recently opined on its editorial pages. Reid needs to be worried on how to put a positive spin on all of Obama's failed policies where race is not a factor. Ever Hear a Democrat Say This? According to U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, he and Governor Chris Christie will continue to disagree over national security and other issues and that the party is big enough to hold both views. Taking a shot at Christie, Paul said there's "room for people who believe in bigger government." Both men are considered lead- ing contenders for president in 2016. Paul made his views known on "Fox News Sunday" and added that Republicans should concen- trate on expanding the party rather than just bickering. Paul noted that the GOP has all but disappeared on the Northeast and needs to attract more independents and Democrats. Sequester This! Democrats love to use the word "sequestration." They blame it on Republicans even though President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid authored it themselves with huge Democratic backing. It all seems a joke. The Obama White House has cancelled those White House tours. The Blue Angels have been grounded. Everything blamed on those mean old sequester- ing Republicans. A nice fairy tale, but just that folks. -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 f~,b