Friday, September 28, 2007

Driving around town, Leeward, Goodbye to Gilley's

I know everyone has seen more than enough photos of the house we are having built,. I am honestly trying to exercise some restraint in posting more. I did find one view I had not put up yet. It's looking at the house from the Graceway complex on Leeward Highway. Our future home is the bump right in the exact middle of the photo. You can get an idea of the little hill it's on, and how isolated it is from the rest of the island. It's just a low causeway connecting it. It would be an island during a big enough storm.

Some more photos randomly around town. Not so clear, shot from the window of a moving Land Rover. What strikes me, when driving around, is first how many churches there are. It seems like there's one every mile or so. Baptists are big here, but there are other denominations as well. And after churches, we notice there seem to be an inordinate number of hair styling places. We have beauty salons all over:

(must be working, she's sure getting checked out...)

We have barber shops ( and New York Style Variety Store)

(just curious, but what kind of merchandise do you New York guys stock in your barber shops?? I never go into them..)

And for those who don't know quite what they need, of course we have combination Beauty Salons AND Barber shops

(the sign by the door actually says "Saloon" I believe....and that wouldn't be out of character, by any means)

This is one of the local car washes, blurred cause we were moving and the road is rough. These are all over town, too. Typically, two five-gallon buckets of water and four guys with rags.

(This one is easy to find. It's right next to, well...its next to Shorty's Barber Shop.)

There IS a new, recently opened, automated car wash in town,too. But every time we go by I notice the automatic part of it seems to be shut down, and what I do see are about six five gallon buckets of water, and twenty guys with rags.

And I thought I would put up another underwater one, to mentally knock some of the dust off. More blue fishies, if you can spot them. And a couple bigger fishies near the bottom.

We've been in the 'big city' of Provo for several days now, getting things done that need doing. While driving around, we are constantly amazed at how fast this island is developing. Two days ago, I drove past the Hey Jose Mexican restaurant and the property across the street was as it has always been, a rocky little hill covered with scrub. (It's not really scrub, I think it's classified as a 'dwarf tropical forest', and it's dwarf because there is not much rainfall and hardly any topsoil. Give it nutrients and water, and these are actually mahogany and cedar and lignum vitae trees. But it looks like scrub)

Yesterday, we drove through the exact same place, and that hillside is gone. It's flat, covered with broken up rock and a big yellow bulldozer. This seems to be happening everywhere we go around here. When it really hits us is when we have been gone out to the little island for a week, and then come back. There are foundations going up everywhere.

We understand about progress, there's no stopping it. Things change. It's not all bad. We have friends here who inherited worthless, arid, land you couldn't give away twenty years ago who are now multimillionaires. Progress is bringing money, and options to these people. But things are changing pretty quick.

I have posted a lot about Leeward-Going-Through. It's been the maritime center of activity for local people for a long, long time. It's been a favorite hangout of ours. We have a lot of friends there. It's changing very very fast. Too fast.

This afternoon we decided to go to Gilley's restaurant, one of our usual Friday afternoon things when we are on Provo. We typically would get some conch fritters and drinks, and watch people and boats for a couple hours. Would see lots of people we know, and get caught up on the latest news from North Caicos. We would find out who was catching what kind of fish. We'd hear the local scuttlebutt. A nice place.

This afternoon, it was closed. So here's a photo of it back in July, with yours truly enjoying a quiet afternoon:

This is what the layout of the Leeward Marina area looked like on Google Earth when we started going there a few years ago:

You can see the single floating dock where we tied up, and where others tied up. The blocky concrete dock is the fuel dock. there was the Dockmaster's (Dwayne) office, then a jet-ski operation. Then a little beach where locals tied their boats off to the mangroves, and a parking area.

Today, if you stand on the fuel dock and look across Dwayne's old office, you see the new Condo/Resort headed toward you like a bad dream, where mangroves used to be:

The little beach, the jet-ski rental....gone for a year now. And starting Monday, the wrecking crews will be demolishing these remaining buildings as well.

Where the little floating dock has been, nearby signs tell us bigger things are planned:

The smallest "yacht slip for sale" here is for a 65 footer. That is gonna be a bit beyond what we need for our 22 footer. Its beyond the needs, and budget, of anyone we know living here. All the home-made conch boats in that sat image...they tied up here for free. Who ever heard of paying money to tie your boat to a mangrove and drop your anchor off the stern? Well, those days are gone. Who are these customers buying slips for 65 ft. yachts? They don't live here.

This fuel dock has a lot of stories it could tell. This has been a central spot here for many years. Locals hang out here. We have seen a lot of laughter, fishing stories, and some tragedies take place right around here. It's been the only place to get fuel for many many people. We've watched people leave this dock with groceries, new brides, and funeral wreaths. It's all happened here, the full range of life for island living people.

Now, all the boats are already gone. The one in the photo is just picking up people and their luggage to take them to Parrot Cay. They will be gone in five minutes.

The Leeward fuel dock will be gone after Monday.

Someone told me Gilley's Restaurant has been here for 20 years, but I don't know if that's true. I do know Gilleys story, though. He came over from North Caicos to Pine Cay and got a job cooking at the Meridian Club when he was just a teenager. He did well, expanded his contacts, and eventually left Pine Cay and opened a small place here at Leeward. It did well. Gilley opened a second restaurant at the airport. He got involved in local politics, as he was in the same age group as other up and coming local businessmen. They helped each other out, and did well as a group. Gilley built a liquor store, and started importing beverages for the growing tourist trade. He got even more involved with local politics, and since everyone knew him and he was a good guy and he was a good businessman, he did well there too.
Gilley's is having a goodbye party on Sunday, and we plan to be there. We are very interested in finding out what the employees are planning to do with themselves. They are friends of ours. Elizabeth, for example, is Roosies wife. We don't want to lose track of them, but this is a small island. We know we will see them from time to time. Gilleys at Leeward:

I don’t have a photo of Gilley that I have taken, although we see him from time to time at the airport, the restaurant, on the golf course. You can find out about him if you want, by doing an internet search. Gilley is a nickname, his given name is Galmo W. Williams.

The Honorable Galmo W. Williams

He just won re-election for his second term as the Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, and Public Safety for the TCI.
How’s THAT for ‘local boy makes good’?

I have been trying off and on, mostly unsuccessfully, to get some moonlight photos. Pretty sure the problem is that my little digital cameras just don't have enough glass. This newest one (Olympus 770SW) for all its strengths, is the worst of the bunch for movement and low-light. I want to figure this out, because when we get into the new house there are just going to be some really neat images to try to catch. The sun rises from the sea, and sets over some small islands when viewed from that hilltop. The moon is going to be pretty neat when low on the horizon and the clouds are right and the water glassy.

Last night La Gringa Suprema suggested I haul out my old Sony DSC-F707. Its only 5 mp, and its slow, but its got a lot of Carl Zeiss optics on it. She was right, again. It does a better job. I got a couple shots before the battery died and then the moon moved on up out of the trees. I was hoping to get something to use as a background on the computer, with dark around the edges to put all my desktop icons, etc.

Its not there yet, but it's looking more promising:

The tree is blurred because it was windy last night and it was moving. On a calm night, I think I can do it.

What I am really looking forward to, though, is trying to catch some of the absolutely spectacular electrical storms we get in the tropics. They are absolutely awe-inspiring to watch. Unless you're a nervous little dog, of course.

Now it's Sunday morning. The lightning and thunder started at 2 AM. So constant and bright and loud it was absolutely impossible to sleep. So we got up and went out on the porch and watched it. It was incredible. Lightning bolts were hitting all around us, every few seconds. I had so many after-images burned into my retinas that when I blinked it reminded me of the 60's. Its been raining hard since about 2:30 AM. Everything is flooding. We wont be taking the boat out, dangit. Unless it stops before afternoon. Maybe we will cruise around town and show you what a couple inches of rain does to this place. They did a good job with the new streets and sidewalks. They didn't put in any gutters. They tried drilling holes in the low spots, but the ground here is solid limestone. So the drain holes just silt up and the streets flood. Things come to a standstill.

Sorry about the scarcity of new photos lately, we really need to get back on the boat. I fixed the tank leak ( I hope) and bilge pump yesterday. We are pretty well weathered in at the moment. The dog needs Thorazine.
This blob of nasty weather has kept us in most of the day. Finally, late afternoon we managed to get out of the house. First we went down to Leeward to see what was happening at Gilley's last open day. There were maybe 30 people there,drinking beer and rum and eating snacks. But it was still early. I suspect the crowd increased after dark. The mood varied from the happy drunks to the not so happy soon-to-be-unemployed. A lot of melancholia..

Circling around it all were a bunch of Filipinos getting sloshed on beer and totally missing the point of the whole thing. At one point we heard one of them talking to one of the musicians with the reggae band. The local guy was dressed in a striped suit, and plays a carpenters wood saw with a butter knife. Anyhow, we heard the Filipino tell him that he was from the Philippines, and then he asked where the TCI guy was from. Reggae man just looked at him blankly, and he then guessed....."Africa'? Talk about clueless. We only hung around about an hour or so. The mood was a little forced, and somber for us. Besides, we wanted to check out the new house before dark.

This is Gringa with our friend Duran. He was in charge of the pumps and distributed two-stroke oil and advice from the fuel dock. He loves the dog, and was a little disappointed we didn't bring him with us today. He was also contemplating being out of a job tomorrow. And he was getting semi-blistered on white wine...

La Gringa Suprema was, of course, forced to commiserate with him, and to that end accepted another rum punch. What a trouper. Lotta commiserating going on today.

The Hon. Galmo Williams aka Gilley was there, of course, shaking hands all around and overseeing it all. Drinking beer and smoking Cuban cigars with his buds at the restaurant one more time. He must have some sad feelings about seeing the place where he got his start come to an end. I know we are sure sad about it. We're gonna miss this place.

La Gringa managed to get him posing outside for a pix, and got it for posterity, or something, before he went back inside with the music and his regulars;

I noticed this Filipino guy sitting out on the dock fishing with a hand line and watching the party develop. Then I noticed the registration numbers on the back of the yellow panga...

It should be "OFV and then a three digit number. It can NOT be "OF VoOO"
But I doubt anyone ever checked.

Then we splashed through puddles on our way over to the house. It was a dreary day. Maybe tomorrow we can make the boat trip. I am getting itchy, too long on dry land.

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