Part 2 of 2
It was a time of firsts for Joe Maclean. He got his first passport, rushed it through in two weeks. He was sitting in a seat on American Airlines bound for Santo Domingo, his first flight, anywhere, ever. It would be his first time leaving the U.S.A. It was the first time he made phoney excuses to his ex., his kids, and his boss, about needing some personal time off. He was travelling incognito, a clandestine operation.
There would be more “firsts” coming fast for Joe during the next few days. He was scared, excited, and completely re-energized, living a live movie, no, that wasn’t it, he was alive, for the first time in his life, alive!
Two weeks ago, Joe managed to meet with Frankie the Rose a second time. Joe wanted a lot more info about the D.R., and the Rose was happy to oblige. This time, he had a surprise for Joe, pictures!
Pictures of Frankie, at a table in a street café, with a stunning, lanky, black girl. Frankie in a bar with two gorgeous Latino bombshells draped all over him. All of them sporting big toothy smiles. Then, the best one of all, a ravishing olive-skinned beauty with long silky black hair attired only in a bra and g-string stretched out like a cat on a hotel bed, waiting.
“What’s her name?” asked Joe.
“Her? Can’t remember,” said the Rose.
How he could not remember the most beautiful woman’s in the world name, thought Joe. It was too much for him to fathom, he grilled Frankie for every bit if information he could, the Rose was accommodating, and they made a list.
Now, sitting on the plane with anxious anticipation, Joe dug the list out of his pocket and went over it again for the hundredth time.
Checked luggage: A carton of condoms, 6 toothbrushes, (1 for him, 5 for “guests”). An assortment of gifts, lipsticks, mascaras, nail polishes, cheap perfumes. There were numerous makeup items Joe didn’t even know what they were for. The salesgirl at the Wal-Mart recommended them as “must-haves.” Finally, a variety of bras, panties, g-strings, panty hose etc. (Frankie told Joe these were the most fun to give away, because the girls had to try them on to make sure they fit, and they loved to model them for the gift-giver).
The aircraft cabin was cool as ice, but Joe was sweating the good sweat, dripping on the list. An announcement on the intercom brought Joe back to reality.
“Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, we are on final approach, and will be landing in Aero Puerto de Las Americas in Santo Domingo in 5 minutes.”
Joe breezed through customs and immigration with no worries, made his way through the surprisingly big modern airport and out the sliding glass doors into the stifling heat of Santo Domingo. He was assaulted by taxi drivers immediately: “Hey Joe, over here, cheap taxi to downtown” yelled a stout little fellow in shades.
“No Joe, here, here is the legal taxi, tourist taxi, over here!” screamed a tall black man waving a laminated name-tag in his hand.
“Don’t listen to them Joe, I’m Ramon, speak good English, cheap rate”, he’d already grabbed Joe’s suitcase, and with his other hand on Joe’s elbow, he was guiding Joe out of the fray towards an old beat-up Camry.
“1500 pesos to the Zona Colonial,” croaked a nervous Joe in a weak attempt to regain control of the situation.
“Sure, this is A O.K.” replied a happy little Ramon.
The Toyota cranked up reluctantly and Ramon coaxed it along and onto the highway towards the Capital. Joe’s new shirt was already sopping wet in the heat. He hardly noticed, his eyes were absorbing a vista of “firsts” all over the place. Palm trees lined the boulevard, along with other fauna he’d never seen before, and the ocean, so blue, he could barely tell where the azure of the sea met the blue of the sky, they were almost as one. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and all kinds of wheeled relics fought for first place in a demolition derby type of driving, zipping in and out of lanes with no rules, roaring at breakneck speeds down the highway.
“What is your name?” asked Ramon, bringing Joe’s mind back to reality in the car. He noticed that his knuckles were white; he was gripping the dashboard so hard.
“My name? Jesus, every taxi driver at the airport was yelling my name, you too! How the hell did you all know my name anyway?” Joe finally thought to ask.
“Your name is really Joe?” asked Ramon.
“Of course it is, how the hell did everyone know?” croaked Joe, straining his neck this way and that trying to watch the mayhem on the road around him. Ramon was now in hysterics, laughing and pounding on the steering wheel. An old truck full of 80lb. propane tanks with two kids in the back trying to keep them all upright cut them off at about 80 miles per hour.
“A friggin’ rolling bomb!” cried Joe.
“We call all gringos Joe at the airport” said Ramon, ignoring his passenger’s distress. We don’t know anyone’s name, we just fighting for the fare.”
“Watch the road!” squeaked Joe.
“You really a Joe? You the first real Joe I know” boasted Ramon. “From now on, I call you Gringo Joe!”
Gringo Joe’s attention was elsewhere; never could he have imagined a ride like this, and surviving. Finally, they were off the highway, threading through the antique cobbled streets of the Zona Colonial. Joe’s heart had just begun to beat normally again, when Ramon hit the brakes as a motorcycle ignoring a stop sign flew by the front of the car.
“Did I really see four people on that little bike?” Joe asked.
“Five, if you count the baby on the handlebars.” Ramon replied, easy as the Dominican breeze.
Gringo Joe checked safely into the Mercure Hotel on the Conde’, dashed up to his room to shower, change, and hopefully get back his wits. He was so frazzled, he could swear there was a pretty girl at the bar near the reception winking and flirting at him. Never in his life had this happened before, could she really have been flirting with him? His head was spinning with adrenaline inspired intoxication, he couldn’t shower and change fast enough. He read the list one more time while his hair was drying, took $150 dollars from his wallet to change, stashed all his valuables and passport in the room safe, inhaled a deep breath, and rode the elevator down to the lobby to boldly go where no Joe had gone before.
Downstairs, he tried to act suave, bar or terrace? He sauntered over to the bar and ordered a cold beer. An icy cold “Presidente’” was placed before him. It went down fast, better than a Budweiser by a long shot. Gringo Joe realized he was starving, so he had another beer follow him out to a table on the terrace, and settled in to scan the menu, feeling like a real cosmopolitan. A man of the world. A steady stream of people strolled by his seat, cruising down the Conde’, a veritable live show. Families, tourists in groups, camera laden with tour guides pointing things out. Vendors selling everything from leather belts, dvd’s, phone cards, jewellery, and countless other items. Shoe-shine boys harried everyone, even if you wore flip-flops, they offered a shine. Best of all, were the women, beautiful, slinky, high-heeled Latina dolls of every shape, color, and style strolled the boulevard, just like Frankie said they would. Eye contact was everything. Every girl Joe looked at eyeballed him right back, smiling, and encouraging.
Back home in New York if you made eye contact like that with a beautiful woman, their nose lifted in the air and they looked down at you with disdain as if saying “how dare you check me out like that”, even though they dressed intentionally to be checked out.
Here, in the D.R., they looked back at you with a smile, as if to say, “thank you for the eye-compliment.”
Gringo Joe was approached and said hello to by three women before he could even order his meal. By the time his food was served, he’d caved and was joined at the table by a petite olive skinned girl named Jasmine, who spoke bad English but said good things. He bought her a glass of wine, he was a nervous wreck, not knowing what to do next.
He needn’t have worried, Jasmine could handle nervous, she was a sort of guide in her own way.
“Did you get a nice room?” she asked innocently. “Would you take me upstairs so I can see the view?” she queried with carnal intent.
Joe skipped dessert, threw money on the table to cover the bill, and headed north with Jasmine in tow. She slowed him down, stopped by the reception to give them her I.D. Joe hovered nervously, hands in his pockets, “Just going upstairs to show her the view.” the words left his mouth before he could think.
The little fellow at the desk looked at Joe, one eyebrow was straining up, trying to touch his hairline, “Sure you are” he said.
By the time Joe got the curtains to open so she could see the “view”, ( they could see the building across the street), she was down to her bra and panties, and she calmly closed them again.
“You have a condom?” Joe was fumbling around in his bag now…”Ooo, she purred, perfume for me?”
There had been other firsts, but this first, was the real deal, Gringo Joe had finally arrived.
Gringo Joe’s afternoon adventure was fast and furious. Jasmine was gone in 20 minutes, Joe was sprawled on the bed as if he had been shot, $50 lighter in the pocket, but a big happy grin on his face. It had taken him longer to get the condom on than it needed to be there, Jasmine turned him into a wild man. Even if it was only a 2 minute wild man.
He wasn’t going to risk going back to the terrace again, he decided to save his energy to check out one of the bars he had on “the List”. His last thought before he dozed off was—God bless Frankie the Rose.
He slept hard, woke up at about 10 p.m., showered, and put on his 3rd shirt of the day. He went downstairs and asked the desk clerk to call the cell phone number Ramon had given him.
He had barely finished his “Presidente’” when Ramón’s old Camry was outside honking for him. He jumped in, and gave Ramon the names of three bars on Frankie’s list.
“You sure this is your first time here?” said Ramon. “You sure know the best places to go Gringo Joe”.
“I have friends” said Joe, his ego getting bigger by the minute.
“I take you to the best one, and wait for you,” said Ramon knowingly. “You won’t be long in there”.
They reached the bar in less than 5 minutes. Joe got out of the car and strolled bravely up a walkway, a half dozen women attired scantily lounged on each side smoking cigarettes, making little kissing sounds and low whistles. A doorman opened the entrance and Joe was assailed by loud, bassy merengue’ music. He slowed down to let his eyes adjust to the dim lights, it was a huge bar. There were at least 2 dozen tables with surround couches and intimate lighting. Only a couple of tables were occupied. A long bar that could seat 20 stretched along the back wall, no-one was at the bar.
There was not very many customers, but there was no shortage of women. Victoria’s Secret could publish 10 catalogues with just the womanhood in this one bar. Every size, color, style, of girl that any man could imagine lingered all over the place.
Gringo Joe, (not so brave now), headed for the safety of the bar. He’d barely sat down, when they swarmed him. He was surrounded. Speechless. He was drowning in perfume, and the sweet smell of sex. The barman tapped him on the shoulder, breaking the spell. Joe heard him saying, “Take it easy amigo, have a drink, you only have to pick the one you want, then the others go away”. He said this so casually.
“Presidente” muttered Joe, how could he ever decide? Too many, way way too many, a buffet!
Finally, Joe picked out a girl, and she said, “what about my best friend? We do everything together.” The barman explained the house rules, and Joe, dazed, weak in the knees, paid $200 dollars at the bar and left with Marcia and Christie, one on each arm, and fell into the backseat of Ramón’s car.
Ramon was right, he wasn’t in there too long.
That was the first day and night of Gringo Joe’s D.R. weekend. The next 2 nights were more of the same. He was like a kid in the candy shop, making up for wasted years living like a monk. Joe would never be the Joe Maclean he had been again. He was Gringo Joe now.
He was back on the flight for home, $700 dollars poorer, with 8 sweaty shirts in his bag, yet he was already plotting his next trip. Calculating how much overtime he could get, how he could save a little on expenses the next time, from what he’d learned on this adventure.
His co-workers were curious at how Joe changed. He seemed to walk with more determination. He seemed so much more positive, a lot less miserable.
All of a sudden Joe had something in common with Frankie the Rose, and they were spotted occasionally conspiring together at the Clubhouse Grill across the street from work.. When he talked to his Ex on the phone about the mortgage and child-support checks, he was in good spirits and always polite and accommodating. This alone would make any wife suspicious. A secretary from work spotted Joe one day lingering in the women’s cosmetic department at the Wal-Mart, and he had a cart full of woman’s lingerie.
Joe already had his next trip to the D.R. booked, only 5 more weeks to go. He could do 5 weeks waiting easy, easy as the Dominican breeze, after all, he’d waited a lifetime for his first trip.
The strangest thing that his co-workers noticed about Joe though, was that for some unknown reason to them, he was always whistling merengue and bachata music as he drove the forklift around the loading bay, like he wasn’t even there at all, as if he were somewhere else.