Thursday, March 17, 2011

Witch Bath

Witch Bath is our new favorite game that we learned in Belize.
And your new favorite black metal band. 
“Oh look who finally showed up?” Wende (pronounced Wendy) said from the bar when Tania and I arrived.

“She even cleaned her house for you,” her sister Denise said scolding us.

“Ah shit,” I said. “Sorry. Fuck.”

I felt horrible. I hate flaky people. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. It’s one of my better qualities, but I flaked out that day. We had made a date to play Wii with the sisters that afternoon, but Tania and I decided to take the long walk along the beach to the Coppola resort instead. Tania said she forgot about the Wii date. I didn’t forget about it, but I thought it was just drunk talk. “Ah, they won’t miss us,” I thought. Apparently they did miss us. And it wasn’t drunk talk. And they were pissed.

Wende and Denise are sisters, born in Canada, of Irish descent. They’ve owned the Pickled Parrot in Belize for over a decade. We wandered in our first night in Placencia and ended up staying til after closing. Not sure how or when the Wii came up, but we discovered that we all share a love of Wii bowling.

“Why would anyone go to a bowling alley ever again?”

“I know, right!”

“Real bowling is so stupid!”

So Tania and I were invited to their house the next day to enjoy a few frames of Wii bowling with them. “I’m going to kick your asses!” I boasted. But, as I said, we flaked. And we had to listen to their shit for the rest of the evening. Which we deserved.

We did, however, make two play dates with the sisters that first drunken night. The second one was the following day and involved, believe it or not, real bowling.

“There’s a bowling alley here?” I said. You have to remember that Belize is mostly jungle. “I gotta see this.”

Wende on the left, Denise on the right, at their bar, The Pickled Parrot.
“So are you actually going to come tomorrow?” Wende asked.

“Or are you going flake out again?” Denise asked.

They were really mad. I guess besides cleaning the house for our Wii play date, they even closed the bar down.

“Yeah,” I said emphatically. “Yeah. We’re coming. Shit, sorry.”

Pickled Parrot's Pink Pussy.
The next morning a small crew of Placencia locals gathered in front of the Pickled Parrot to take a bus eight miles north to the neighboring town of Maya Beach. The occasion was Brenda's birthday. Brenda is another Pickled Parrot local. Like Wende and Denise, she was cool. We had a fine time drinking rum punches with Brenda at the Pickled Parrot.

The idea of a bowling alley in Belize becomes even stranger when you take a bus to a bowling alley in Belize. A couple people in our group had, in fact, never been on a bus before. Probably because the bus, a very old school bus, only comes once a day. We got on in Placencia, which is the southern most tip of the peninsula and thus the beginning of the bus route, so the bus was empty at the start. That only lasted a few minutes. By the time we got to Maya Beach, eight miles and 30 minutes later, the thing was packed, standing room only. It seemed to stop every 20 feet and ten more people would get on. One girl that got on emerged from the jungle with a pizza. (Gratuitous grandpa joke: Must have been a pizza “hut” in the jungle somewhere?)

The first stop on Wende and Denise’s Maya Beach adventure was Mangos, a bar/restaurant that everyone said had the best food on the peninsula. They couldn’t stop talking about how good the chef was. It looked good. Tania and I weren’t really that hungry yet, so we just ordered a plate of nachos with grilled shrimp and enjoyed the view and our rum punch.

Tania enjoying the view at Mangos. Below, not yo shrimp.
The thing I will always remember about Mangos, though, was the ring game. Next to the bar, there was a silver ring on a fishing line attached to the ceiling. The ring was around a hook screwed into a post. Denise took the ring off the hook, took a few steps back, and began trying to swing the ring back onto the hook.


“It’s the ring game,” she said. “It’s a Belizean thing. You try and get the ring onto the hook.”

“LEMME TRY,” I yelled. I tend to yell when I get excited.

Get the ring on the hook. Looked simple enough. I swung the ring at the hook, and missed.

“What the fuck?” I said to the ring as I caught it on its return.

That was all it took, just one try. I was pissed, and I was hooked (no pun intended). I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I’ve been jonesing for a fix so bad since we’ve been home that I went down to the hardware store, bought the supplies, and built my own damn ring game in our backyard. We dubbed it “Belizean Horseshoes.” (Other names we considered were “Belizean Basketball,” you have to get the hoop around the “ball”; “Belizean Darts,” you have to hit the “dart” with the bulls eye; and “Belizean Wedding,” put the ring on the “finger.”) But, after a short search on the internet, I learned that it already has a name: it’s called either the Bimini Ring Game, or Ring The Bull.

Tania never fist pumps, but she jocked out when she got the ring on the hook at Mangos.
The ring game is popular at bars throughout the Bahamas, not just Belize, but nobody really knows where it came from. Some say it was introduced by pirates, but pirates (butt pirates?) seem to be the response to any question without an answer down there. Others like to say it was invented by Hemingway while he was fishing and drinking, drinking and fishing, sometimes just fishing, but most of the time just drinking. But it doesn’t matter what their story is because the game’s origins can purportedly be traced back to some ancient pub in England called “Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem.”

“Legend has it the game was brought back to England by Crusaders from Jerusalem,” says the site “This story appears to have come about primarily from the game being played in the most famous and oldest pub in England ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ situated in the cliffs underneath Nottingham Castle. This pub is an old crusaders tavern dating back to the year 1189 AD.”

It’s a nice story, and I hope it is true, but is a site run by some dude in Cincinatti. (Since the internet says I invented the word “bromance,” I don’t really believe anything on it anymore.) And even if anybody was alive in 1189 AD, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for the Jewish element in the story. “The Crusaders” makes the story sound very exciting and romantic (much like butt pirates), but—wait, they stole it from the Jews, what? Jews play games? I mean besides Dreidle?

In short, I don’t think it really has a name and you can call it whatever you want. So we’ve decided to call the ring game we learned in Belize “Witch Bath.” 

This really has nothing to do with anything other than I thought this might be a nice place for you, the reader, to pause and enjoy a wonderful painting of a lobster wearing sunglasses and enjoying a Belikin.
The other night, we had a couple friends, Mark and Sharan, over for drinks, dinner, and to try out our new Belizean Horseshoe game (which was its name at the time). Mark also brought his two dogs, Randall and Collette, and a coworker from Connecticut named Carly. Dinner was delightful. Tania made braised beef short ribs with leek polenta and green beans (I would call them haricot verts, as is the fashion these days, but I’m not trying to sell them to you, and I’m not French). But Belizean Horseshoes was the highlight of the evening. As I had hoped, our guests were absolutely smitten with the stupid ring on a string.

“You’ll probably find me out here when the sun comes up, smoking cigarettes and still playing this thing,” Carly said.

It was in fact Carly who was the first person to get the ring on the hook in our backyard. I had performed fairly well on the one at Mangos bar, I had hooked the ring probably a dozen times, but after setting the one up in our backyard I couldn’t hook it once after a half hour of trying. Which made me wonder if I had miscalculated the distances. But then Carly arrived and made it on the hook in just a few minutes (a little too easily, I thought), and we were all shown that it wasn’t as impossible as it first seemed. Mark and Tania then both hooked it a couple times, and I went on to hook it a few more times. Sharan, on the other hand, has yet to experience the joy of landing the ring on the hook because she’s a total loser.

“I fucking hate this game,” Sharan said.

Amid the revelry of the evening, however, an unfortunate mishap soured our merriment. Mark’s dog, Collette, got hit by a skunk in our backyard.

“And Collette’s the smart one,” Mark said as he stood over Collette on our lawn wiping the froth from her lips and cleaning her bloody nose. She not only got the skunk’s vile spray straight in the face, but she got the skunk’s claws straight up her nose. “She has a problem with cats,” Mark explained.

Not to be outdone, Randall raced into the darkness of our backyard and found the wounded skunk himself and was similarly entertained by the animal’s noxious nether regions. While Collette was fine with her first misting, and sat quietly, albeit ashamed, on the patio for the rest of the night, Randall returned to the scene a half dozen more times and received the same result every time. He couldn’t get enough of it. We wondered if it was like heroin to him or something. “You throw up at first, and it burns your eyes, but after that the high is amazing!”

Beckett, as I’ve said before, hates squirrels. He calls them Devil Rats. And skunks, well, he refers to them as the Queens of the Devil Rats. I mentioned this in the backyard at some point, which might have been why Mark, using Randall’s voice, characterized the foul smelling weasel as a witch. “I thought it was a cat,” Randall whined, “but it turned into a FUCKING WITCH!”

Shortly thereafter the term “Witch Bath” was born. It’s what you get when you get hit by a skunk. As in, “Randall and Collette each took a witch bath the other night.”

“That’s a good name for a black metal band,” I said.

And thus the world famous “skunk metal” band Witch Bath was born.

“When do we start practicing?” Sharan asked excitedly.

“Practice?” I said. “Pfft! We don’t practice, we stink!” (That’s two grandpa jokes, if you’re keeping score.)

I further explained that the hard work was already done: we had a name, we had a logo, and we had a theme on which to hang our crappy metal music. Making the crappy metal music to go along with our logo is easy. Anybody can do that, even me and Mark. So all that is left to do is for Sharan and Tania to write some stupid lyrics about skunks, witches, baths, and witch baths. Of course costuming is a major issue for any metal band, but in our case that’s a no brainer also: we’ll all wear black witch’s habits that will be painted like a skunk. With bushy tails and pointy black hats, of course. At the moment I'm busy trying to figure out how to rig the tails so that we can lift them to expose an anus hose that will spray the audience—like Gwar—with skunk juice. Gwar skunk tails are far more important than practice. 

The only thing we need to practice is this fucking shit right here!
 A few days later, while pricing witch hats (they’re expensive!), I had a great idea, “We should just call the ring game, Witch Bath, too!” Mark has admitted having trouble pronouncing the “Belizean” part of Belizean Horseshoes, Bimini Ring Game just sounds stupid like Jenga, and Ring the Bull sounds either vaguely sexual or like a catchphrase on Sports Center. But if someone asked me if I wanted to learn how to play Witch Bath, I’d be like, “Fuck yeah!”

And thus Witch Bath, the ring game, was born. (You’d think we’re pro life with all the things being born in this story, but we’re not.) 

The object of Witch Bath, then, is to get the noose (ring) around the witch’s neck (hook), so that you can drag her down to the river and drown her. The drowning, that’s the “bath” part. Or maybe the object is to get the wedding ring around the witch’s finger (the hook) so that you can marry her and sit in her Jacuzzi cauldron for all eternity? I don’t know. And I don’t care. Use your imagination. If Picasso can call this a guitar, I can call this game Witch Bath.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red Rum Punch

These juicy green leaves with bright red veins came from a bush, or a tree, that was all over the beaches of Belize. We stayed in a beach shack in Placencia.
“It’s gonna DUMP!”

I must have yelled that a dozen times our first day in Belize. The rain would fall hard at times, but not for long. There was always blue sky right behind the dark clouds that were born over the Caribbean Sea with its Bermuda Triangle and peculiar weather conditions that would make the rain fall sideways. Little flying water coffins.

“You’re going to dump,” Tania said.

It’s true. I am going to dump. No matter what. Even if I died right after she said that, I’d still dump. I’ve been give to understand that corpses void their bowels.

“You don’t tell me when I’m going to dump!” I yelled back at her. Perhaps too aggressively.

We were on vacation, after all, and there was no reason to be starting a fight. We had even taken the precaution of sleeping on our usually assigned sides of the bed: I am on the right, Tania is on the left. That is from the vantage point of a murderer standing at the foot of the bed with a knife in his hand, perhaps a large chef’s knife, and looking at us while adjusting his pantyhose, or ski mask, or whatever costume he had chosen to wear for the event of our deaths. Maybe he wore nothing and wished for us to see his crazy face before we die so we’d always “remember” him, that is of course if memory crosses the divide between this world and the next. I’m of the opinion it doesn’t. I said he was crazy, right? In which case, if he were sans mask, then he would probably be picking his nose as he surveyed us sleeping. I would flick a booger on my victims right before I set upon them. It’s completely unnecessary, but it’s a little added obnoxious touch to an already unpleasant event. I mean, if you’re going to be a jerk. I wouldn’t aim, I’d just flick it like a cigarette in that “Alright let’s do this!” manner that is so popular among action movie stars. And then I’d stab the fuck out of them. Out of us. I’m on the right, she’s on the left, if you’re a murderer at the foot of our bed.

This was the view from the front porch of our beach shack. See that black dot on the beach by the water to the right? It's a bag of trash. It was there our entire stay. We wrote a children's story about it called, "The Li'l Bag of Beach Trash." Which you will enjoy soon.

“You’re on my side,” Tania said as she emerged from the bathroom in our tiny little beach shack and found me on the left side of the bed. Again, from the murderer’s perspective. “You wanna fight again?” she asked. The Amelie soundtrack was coming out of her crappy, tinny iPod speakers.

“Where was that, that we fought because we slept on the wrong side of the bed?” I asked. The song that she walked down the aisle to, “La Valse D’Amelie,” was playing.

“I don’t remember,” she said, thinking about it. “London?”

“No,” I said. We definitely fought in London. That was a particularly bad fight. But I remember sleeping on my side, the right side, right as in opposite of left from the perspective of a murderer at the foot of our bed, but also right as in the correct side of the bed. Because I remember staring at the window all night long, which was on my side of the room, our horrible, tiny, harlequin themed room. There’s nothing like a clown-themed room to exaggerate and mock a domestic spat.

“Maybe Vegas?” she wondered.

“Maybe,” I agreed. “For some reason Vegas was the first place I thought of, too.” She didn’t think Vegas first, but I said “too” all the same. And Vegas seems like a place where you’re supposed to fight with women.

“I just remember that we were fighting,” she said, “and in hindsight, when it was all over, we decided it was because we were sleeping on the wrong sides of the bed.”

“Probably,” I said. Upon inspection, I’ve found that every one of our fights is over nothing and may as well have been caused by sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. It’s as good an explanation as any. “Oh wow! Look at the moon!” I said. It was still light out, but I could see the moon rising over the ocean.

When it would "dump," I'd take pictures of beach trash and whatnot in the room. This is a little piece of seaweed going up Bittman's nose.

“Oh,” she said, stepping out onto our porch, “it’s a full moon.”

Tania got her camera out of her purse and took a picture of the moon in the daylight sky. It was one of those digital pictures you feel the need to take, but will never do anything with. It’s a nice sentiment, but ultimately it’s just a stupid moon picture.

“Are you using the Caribbean Ocean Moon Rise setting?” I asked.

Tania’s camera has all these automatic settings that are oddly specific such as, “Pets,” “Food,” “Babies,” “Fireworks,” “Night Portraits,” “Starry Night Portraits,” “Self Portraits,” “Starry Night Self Portraits of Baby Food,” etc.. I prefer to keep it on the one that uses a martini glass as an icon, “Party,” it says. I hope that every picture I take in that mode will look like I’m at a party. “WOOOO! PARTY CAM!”

“Duh,” Tania said. “What? You think I’d make the mistake of using the Pacific Ocean Moon Rise setting?”

I poured two more rum drinks. Tania lay down on the bed and picked up her Patti Smith book. The Cocteau Twins babbled out of the tinny iPod speakers. Tania thinks the singer sounds like Nell. Jodie Foster Appalachian feral wild child jibber jabber. The surf splashed upon our beach. The faint yellow moon went behind the clouds.

Our first bartender preferred this rum because it was mellower, not so sweet and vanilla-y.

“Jesus,” she said as she took a sip of her rum punch.

“That’s how they did it at the bar,” I said. I watched. I made mental notes. They filled the glass with ice, then some rum, then a splash of punch. Tania found my interpretation a little strong.

“You like that Patti Smith book?” I asked.

Tania said Patti Smith is a good writer. Tania never says that. Even about good writers.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Why don’t you ask the murderer at the end of the bed. He’s been reading over my shoulder all night.”

I wondered if the camera had a setting for “Murder.”

Rum punch at Coppola's. Coppola has a resort in Placencia. We walked about three miles along the beach to get to the bar on the ocean and have a couple drinks and watch rich people have really weird forced romantic moments.

Found this sick Neil Blender ramp on the walk to Coppola's. Tania is watching wild chickens in the trees.