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?