Archive for the ‘Beach Bar Visitors’ Category
Saturday, April 29, 2006
We are back on the good-guy theme again. We are a full year on from those articles regarding Massachusetts Man and Philadelphia knight-in-shining-armor but true to the vein of those stories those two individuals have been up to their good deed tricks again this past “winter”. More stationery supplies delivered and yet more teeth filled at their expense. They are but two examples of the good works that we hear of from time to time: we are sometimes visited by coordinated groups who take time off from their chores while in this country to enjoy a day at the beach and fortunate enough to find them relaxing down on a sun lounger in front of Playa Vista and hear their stories of “trying to make a difference”.
The other day it was rather back to the individual although in truth it was more like a group rolled into an individual. It was when he started pulling medicine after medicine out of his pocket to show examples of what he was offering to some of the under privileged people in these parts that we started taking serious notice. He is not a doctor -actually a historian- but in his vast experience of visiting poor neighborhoods, particularly in Africa, he has learned of the immense usefulness of basic hygiene knowledge and of always being ready with a bag of over-the-counter medicines and ointments. He has been doling out toothbrushes, dental floss, pain relievers, muscle relaxing creams as well as clothing mainly in Los Conucos (near Juan Dolio) on his latest trip although his first visit to the Dominican Republic saw him in the Las Terranas neighborhood near Samana. As the conversation progressed it became increasingly obvious that the man is actually a full-on professional humanitarian with the story deepening at each example of his attempts to put something back into life that has seemingly treated him well, though be it after a very difficult beginning.
His official move into the humanitarian arena began when he coupled his academic background and his belief in the power of education with his desire to give and formed the non-profit organization “South African Book Drive”. You can read more details regarding the man and his efforts at:
His efforts have led to more than three million books being distributed across southern Africa and he related to us his plans for helping further in the Dominican Republic. He talked of wanting to bring in 400 pounds of clothing a month and set up some academic programs in English. We naturally wish him the very best with his projects and suspect that he might be quite successful when we note that his organization is backed by a preponderance of people from the very same state of origin as Massachusetts Man.
Friday, March 31, 2006
The numbers of stories filtering out from our delightful Hispaniola island quite frequently point to the – shall we say – idiosyncratic nature of the local people, and we at Playa Vista freely admit to being complicit sometimes in adding fuel to the fire… for, where else would we get a really good story? However, to try and bring a semblance of balance to the picture we take the opportunity here to shed light on some idiosyncratic behavior of people from another part of the world.
Far be it from us to be part of the great big stereo-typing conspiracy, but we do note by way of introduction that the individuals concerned in this story come from West Virginia which our many American friends tell us has a reputation all of its own.
The central figure in our story arrived in Boca Chica fresh from the Panhandle State to marry his true love having decided on a previous trip to commit himself to a new life and a new wife here in our corner of Caribbean paradise.
Four days after the wedding day the man unexpectedly turned up in the Playa Vista Bar. We naturally motioned to congratulate him on his new start in life… but the scar on his hand sent the conversation in another direction. He then pointed to another much larger injury on his upper thigh. “What happened?” “I don’t rightly know,” he said… but then started talking somewhat abstractedly about a fight in the midst of his wedding ceremony! He said he had spent the last four nights in prison, precisely the amount of time that had passed since the wedding itself, we couldn’t help noticing, and reflection on that point delivered us very quickly to the conclusion that a new start in life was not the first thing to be congratulating him on after all.
To be honest we were left in complete confusion because our man was accompanied not only by his good traveling companion, also from West Virginia, but by a plain clothes policeman although not apparently under any kind of restrictive orders. Our man seemingly was visiting good old Playa Vista as if he were a ship seeking some kind of shelter in a storm. The West Virginia friend added to the plot of puzzlement by hissing out of the corner of his mouth that our newlywed had no money and we should watch the level of credit we allowed him.
Bewildered we were, to say the least, but let it go at that, believing it was a matter between two friends, seemingly the police and probably a newly wedded wife somewhere in the background.
Quite some days went by and the supportive friend appeared calmly and coolly at Playa Vista again thereby in our minds immediately dispelling the notion that there was any kind of urgent problem to deal with. Newly married West Virginian had, according to the friend, at some point since his arrival gone “a little crazy” caused numerous problems for himself and others around him and he, the friend, was now merely trying to help get him back to the USA… only there was a complication in that the friend had had his passport stolen! We had to applaud the support the friend was providing naturally assuming that after the substantial delay haste would be the order. However… the friend clearly wasn’t going to give up on his vacationing quite yet as he enjoyed a few relaxing drinks at the Playa Vista Bar and a manicure that afternoon on top of whatever else he had been doing on the intervening days.
Again quite some time later, strangely on Super Bowl night actually, our main actor in the saga turned up again, precisely on time for the football game and a stiff whisky. Ironically he was a true fanatic of one of the participants that night namely the Pittsburgh Steelers who were vying with the Seattle Seahawks to be crowned Super Bowl champs, but we swear that he never saw a single play… not in any of the game he was supposed to watch at Playa Vista that is, for sure. He was far more interested in loud and not very clear-headed conversation with the other bar-guests around him, people who were actually trying to watch the game. We and the agitated bar-guests frankly breathed a sigh of relief when the troubled West Virginia man slipped off his bar stool and sauntered out at half time.
Yet more days further on and the vacation-loving friend was in the bar again explaining the same story about getting our man out of the country, but it still wasn’t easy because actually neither of them had passports by now and also their plane tickets had expired apart from any other problems that might be involved! The friend, being exactly that, listened to our report of the visitation on Super Bowl night, again took his time, had a few drinks and very supportively paid for his friends unpaid bar tab from that infamous Super Bowl night.
He shook our hands, wished us well and commented again on how he really must get the guy back home for some real help. All well and good we supposed… although we did see the friend again as recently as last week. We are just left to wonder what the West Virginian word for ‘mañana’ is!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
There are a lot of different people who pass through the Playa Vista area in the course of time… one way or another and for one reason or another. An old Caribbean gentleman used to do so on a regular basis. He was tall, with decidedly negro characteristics, a bit of a stooped back, grey hair under his baseball cap and going by the distinctive and unforgettable name “Napoleon”. He was polite and very gentle mannered… and like many in any third world country looking for some kind of an opportunity. We really were not in a position to help, but we would, as we usually try to do with polite gentle mannered people, have a little interchange of conversation and wish him luck on his way.
Some years passed by and apart from bumping into Napoleon once on the bus we hadn’t seen or heard of the man for a long time until the other day.
Napoleon walked into Playa Vista with a more determined stride than we ever recall and greeted us very amicably. He was his usual friendly self and asked after us and how things were going. “How is business?” he asked. “Not too bad, but of course we can always use more customers even though it now is the middle of the higher season”, we replied. “Okay, I have a couple of friends who have apartments over in Andres and they can help you bring in a lot more customers.” “My two friends come from Puerto Principe by the way!” All right we thought. No harm in talking. Perhaps his friends have some lodgers who want to spend some time at a nice place right on the beach away from their apartments occasionally.
There are a lot of promises made and a lot of promises often not completed around these parts but the next morning, a Sunday incidentally, bright and early Napoleon was here with his two friends. They were two brothers, well dressed, polite, Spanish speaking but genuinely Haitian from the main city in that country, Puerto Principe, and they did have a SINGLE apartment in Andres where they personally were living. Well…out of courtesy we explained our set up silently wondering what kind of business proposition they could possibly have. “So, what do you want us to do for you then,” the younger brother a bit surprisingly said. “Well… if you can bring in substantially more customers then fair enough and you would be entitled to some kind of a commission, naturally,” we said.
There was quite a bit of eye shifting at this point and a slight clearing of the throat before the younger brother announced that their work fell into the category of “mystic”. Mystic? We honestly thought that perhaps it was some kind of show they put on, and we explained that we were not really big enough for a performance of that nature. The older brother then, after some more eye shifting, explained that it was “spiritual” – the way they planned to bring customers in that is. The penny then finally dropped: Puerto Principe, Haiti, Mystic, Spiritual…, my goodness, VOODOO!… we were staring straight in the face of the little known business arm of the world famous voodoo tradition.
The eye-shifting was now on our side of the table as we backtracked on our willingness to discuss promotional ideas with this particular “technique” in mind anyway. We then wished Napoleon and his friends the very best of the day and good luck with their many clients they said they had waiting for them in Andres. As they understandably, due to our lack of enthusiasm for their voodoo specialty, walked disappointedly out of Playa Vista the power supply abruptly failed!
Now, as we all know that power failure isn’t exactly uncommon in these parts we were left merely to wonder if it was just the usual problems that cut the electricity off at that moment… or could it be that voodoo trickery has been behind the last 40 years of electricity distribution problems in the Dominican Republic?
Thursday, December 1, 2005
There is a very sweet little four-year-old girl who visits us regularly and delights in her time at the beach while here with her North American father… an old friend of ours. The following story ends in triumph, but that was very far from certain when our friend embarked on legal action concerning the child’s Dominican mother.
The story as told to us by that triumphant father goes like this:
“The child’s Mom virtually stole the child a few weeks back, taking her for a weekend and then not coming back at all. I put on my tough-guy hat and tracked her down in a poor neighborhood a few days later. My daughter had been missing school and her other activities, as the Mom had decided that she would no longer be living with me. Without big expectations and even without a lawyer – everyone always tells me I have no hope of getting legal custody because I am a single foreigner, without residency, without a wife etc etc – I took the Mom to court.
I detailed, in Spanish, everything that had happened, put forward a few witnesses and guess what: I won custody! The Mom was given visitation rights and the judge told me that if she ever broke any of them, to let her, the judge (that is), know right away. First visitation weekend, the mother broke the rules totally, and I got her right back in court again. More strict visitation conditions were imposed. All of this is a minor miracle here, but shows what can now be accomplished after all the years where it was a sure thing that a Dominican mother would get the custody no matter the circumstances … there actually is progress in courts, they are finally coming around to looking at what is best for the kids.”
For us at Playa Vista who through the years have heard it all and seen it all it is not a minor miracle… it’s a humongous miracle that gives hope for the future of the good crazy old Dominican Republic.
Well done that man!
Saturday, November 5, 2005
The majority of overseas visitors to the Dominican Republic are undoubtedly visiting for a well earned break -spot of rest and recuperation- in the form of a traditional Caribbean vacation… though it has to be said, as the country moves on politically and economically, especially in this area close to the very sizable and significant historical capital city of Santo Domingo there are increasing numbers of visitors arriving for a whole range of different reasons and equally variable lengths of stay.
But… here on the south coast of our island there is surprisingly very little active and therefore credible information available on the region almost in any language, let alone English, for any eager-to-learn guests as to where to visit, what to see and what to do while here. Well… apart from visiting www.DR1.com, www.dr1.com/blogs/playavista, www.PlayaVistaBocaChica.Net and personally coming to talk to us over a drink in BaseCamp & InfoCenter Playa Vista you can now download from the internet your very own reference material. The stylish material currently comes in the form of a 12-page magazine and will be updated on a regular basis by Santo Domingo resident, regular Playa Vista visitor and co-conceiver of the web site cum-magazine, Greg McMillan who featured in a previous blog (April 18th 2005) due to his contribution to a photo-manual on the history of relations between Canada and the Dominican Republic. The press launch for this new initiative was held at the Casa de Teatro – itself well worth a visit – in the very center of the scenic colonial part of the city, where all subscribers and interested parties were invited for the initiation ceremony. Gregg even had a well written speech ready in Spanish to wish the newly launched concept well on its way. Unfortunately Gregg had been plagued by one of the dreaded variants of “greepay” (see blog Aug 1st 2005) for a nagging number of days thwarting his best intentions. In spite of – or maybe because of – the viral attack to his throat and the ensuing absence of the anticipated speech at the venue Gregg instead wrote down the internet contact details for us to hand on to all our valued ‘bloggers’: www.santodomingohot.com.
PS Gregg was later heard to have ventured into other territories and allowed this domain to go unregistered, so if there is somebody out there thinking that hot santo domingo could work for them on the internet then it is available.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Earlier in the summer we talked about the imminent arrival of a new beer from the Brazilian brewer ‘Ambev’ (see 22/07/05 blog) and with quite a fanfare “Brahma” was finally launched. ‘Brahma’ is a pilsner-type beer and comes in a brown bottle with a distinct red and gold label impressively claiming that it has been in production since 1888.
Ambev’s Brahma represents the latest challenge to monopolist Cerverceria Nacional’s, alias León Jimenes, two main brands ‘Presidente’ and ‘Bohemia’ here in the Dominican Republic, and Ambev are evidently here for the long haul, because they have spent a large sum of money already… besides a huge and impressive PR-campaign they have also spent heavily on the building of a large brewery in Hato Nuevo with production capacity of 1 million hectoliters! The name Brahma itself has generated a certain amount of interest with several theories going the rounds of the Playa Vista bar as to its origins and meaning. For the uninitiated Brahma is actually the name of the Indian Hindu god of creation, a link that should be promotionally persuasive of itself, in some people’s books, to give it a try… however a certain learned German-Boca Chica coterie claims that the name derives from the starting letters of Brauhaus Mannheim – a German brewery – which had something to do with the brew’s beginnings way back at the end of the 19th century before it even got to Brazil.
Brahma beer might be the latest fad here, but it is clearly old hat to the Brazilians, for a large group of young thirsty vacationing footballers from the internationally renowned Brazilian teams of ‘Vasco da Gama’ and ‘Flamengo’ jogged up to the Playa Vista bar one day recently and demanded the stuff. Up to as many as 15 of them, over a period of four days, wouldn’t drink anything else and were not the least bit impressed with the local Presidente or Bohemia offerings. The regulars seem to have mixed opinions on the subject. The main commentary is that Brahma is lighter, which clearly satisfies some, for Brahma certainly has ’created’ a following, even if the new brew on the block cannot be said to be dislodging the old incumbent and market dominating Presidente quite yet.
It is still early days, which is clearly the attitude of both rival beer companies, as we remain disappointingly waiting for new promotional encouragement from either of them. While awaiting a promised batch of new parasols from Presidente (see June/July 2003 blog archives) we certainly wouldn’t hesitate in coming forward if Brahma were to ask if we needed anything to further enhance the beach area in front of Playa Vista for all our distinguished guests.
Sunday, August 7, 2005
After all running a beach-bar is part of our daily routine so we thought we would elaborate on the drinks theme just a little.
As everybody following our blog entries knows, we have had some quite entertaining experiences with the beer and soft-drink suppliers ‘Presidente’ and ‘Coca Cola’ over the years, but what about ‘the hard stuff’.
As we live slap bang in the middle of the Caribbean, it would be no great surprise to know that we are not only living on an island with a great sugar-growing legacy, but one that has a significant history of rum distilling too. The prime local producers are ‘Brugal’ and ‘Barceló’… both companies having their range of brands mainly differentiated by time allotted for ageing. Ignoring the very luxury end of the market, the best brand from Brugal is aptly named “Extra Viejo” meaning extra old and the top brand from Barceló is “Imperial”. We think the names do adequate justice to these two particular brands, although of course we stock all of the main Brugal and Barceló varieties… and if you think we wouldn’t cater for your own particular ‘extra luxury’ end interests, we can of course dig something out for that too – the universally known Bacardi and a little known highly recommended 15-year-old rum from Guatemala that goes by the name of Zacapa for example.
In spite of our island’s rum producing tradition the Dominican Republic, just like so many other countries of the world, is an ardent importer of the Scotch hard stuff. Our own experience tells us that Dewar’s and Johnnie Walker rank highly in popularity… especially the Black Label variety. However, a much cheaper option is imported Scotch but bottled in this country. By far the most popular brand of this type goes under the very improbable Scottish name of MacAlbert though, without any direct intent, it is the actual name of another well known dark horse in Australia – one that runs round race tracks that is!
We do not limit ourselves strictly to the Scotch type so kindly note that we have on hand the Irish varieties of Bushmills and the ever-popular Baileys not to mention the bourbon strain of whiskies led by Jack Daniels and as a welcome outsider Maker’s Mark – a gift to Playa Vista that was very kindly donated by one of our favorite Kentucky visitor’s who speaks largely of its virtues.
If your favorite tipple of the stronger stuff does not appear in this very brief list by all means pop by and check out if Playa Vista might just have what you are looking for… cheers!
Sunday, July 17, 2005
All is well on the southern front as the outer sinewy reaches of Emily’s rotating package of discomfort, very much like Dennis, simply, though be it ominously, brushed along our coast. We were once again basking in the usual bright sunshine and calm air a mere 24 hours after Emily trundled on by leaving nothing more than the memory of rather beautiful high rolling surf breaking on our ever-so-protective coral reef a few hundred yards out from the Playa Vista terraza where we ourselves and a substantial group of guests enjoyed the majestic play of mother nature’s forces.
This leaves us with the perfect gateway to a pleasant weekend down here on the beach. For those of you not familiar with our backdrop, Boca Chica is THE beach for people from the capital Santo Domingo to enjoy a swim or merely a watery or sandy frolic. At this time of year another major attraction is the possibility of escaping from the usual negatives of living in a large city with its noise, dirt and a far more intense kind of heat… especially in contrast to the balmy breeze almost invariably caressing our little stretch of paradise.
For people-watchers a Sunday is often an unmissable sight with so much natural and peaceful pleasure being had by great numbers of people strewn all along the beach. For those who like it quieter then perhaps Monday is a good day to visit but, biased though we may be, we can clearly recommend you will have fun whichever day you come.
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
We are pleased to say that we have a couple of genuine ‘good-guy stories’ in the pipeline for you… the first goes like this:
Massachusetts Man, our good-guy number one, has developed quite an onerous but benevolent habit of carting something like 150lbs of produce down from Boston to donate to the local Boca Chica high school “Elvira de Mendoza“, and this he now does a couple of times a year. In good old entrepreneurial fashion he saw a market opportunity that he has developed over the years… with the single entrepreneurial omission that he doesn’t make any money out of it!
One fine day he noticed a lot of good paper was going to waste around him at his place of work. The match up was that he in his mind’s eye saw this paper being well used in poor old Boca Chica and where better than one of the local schools he thought. He had the brilliant idea that a lot of the notepads and business paper pads, when finished with, could simply be recycled by using the blank obverse sides. So, he made a point of asking all his work colleagues to put these pads and papers aside for him. From this simple beginning he has extended his product range asking all his friends and colleagues for any kinds of paper pads, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners or anything of that ilk, that they might be able to spare to add to his haul. Not satisfied with that he also visits the local dollar stores just before setting off to see if he can pick up some additional inexpensive bargains to make up the full load. This is of course working very much counter to pure entrepreneurship because this now involves money actually coming out of his own pocket. However, a recent market diversification has him back on track spotting an opportunity for low value products with large potential demand. He came across the chance of 200 free sample tubes of toothpaste with toothbrushes and promptly stuffed them also into one of his carrier bags and brought the whole thing down to Boca Chica. Once in town he phones the school to make an appointment with the principal of the school in order to present his offering. She, as well as all the contented recipients, is quite rightly very thankful and everybody is now more than ever looking forward to welcoming the creative and generous packhorse the next time he can make a run.
So… if you see our Massachusetts Man struggling through either Boston or Santo Domingo International Airports you might like to give him a hand with his baggage knowing that it is all in a good cause. Perhaps others of you out there have some other creative ideas along the lines of Massachusetts Man’s… we would be only too pleased to pass the information on and keep the supply of good intentions running if that were the case.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Randall, again not the infamous western-Kentucky farmer, but the author of ‘The Xpatriot’ (see March 2, 2005 blog posting), may have helped to reawaken a general reading interest as well as start a welcome trend, because we have been asked quite a few times by some of our regulars if they could have a sneak preview of his book by borrowing from our slowly growing library. His Xpatriot book, by the way, has generated a lot of positive comments… and judging from the commonest one of all: “Yes I enjoyed the read”, it strikes us that the borrowers were doing more than sneak-previewing.
While we are on the subject may we mention that Playa Vista does have a small library of magazines and paperbacks, all but a select few unsigned copies, for customers to borrow. This mini-library can be easily found in the corner of the bar as you enter the door on the left. There is no ticketing system whatsoever… we just ask for people to observe standard rules like return the books when finished in the condition they were borrowed. Naturally if any of you would like to add to the library that would be appreciated by all the thirsty re-aroused readers around here too.
Now back to the welcome trend because Greg – from that other but much larger North American country – is the latest to provide us with a personally signed copy of a publication that he contributed to in a major way. It is titled ‘A Chronicle of Images – Canada/Republica Dominicana 50+’ and contains both photos and text on relations between the two countries over the last 50 years. It is a very well presented compilation with text in Spanish, English and French. Gregg himself was, among other things, responsible for the art direction, design and production. By all means ask at the bar if you would like to view this nicely documented work, as was Gregg’s intention when he handed it over!