96 Hours in St Martin

I was halfway through my last semester at Hamilton, when I did something extraordinary. At least for me that is. Although it was nearly April and “officially” spring, even though upstate Clinton, New York would not actually thaw until probably the week before graduation in mid-May; even then it had been known to snow on or before graduation. (We were often reminded of the great whiteout of ’62 by Dean McCain, that nearly derailed commencement that year). Our neighbors ten miles to the south, at Colgate, which was ironically in Hamilton, New York, seemed to relish the snow until its very last days. Although I thought anyone who attended the university (and who loved to boast that it was the story of the 1950s Colgate swim-team, that had laid the groundwork for Where The Boys Are, the seminal spring-break novel that established Ft. Lauderdale as a spring-break destination for nearly four decades), must be gluttons for punishment after my visit senior year of high-school and ascending the slopes of the hills that made up the entire campus. I decided I would rather spend a year working on a shrimp trawler than make my way up those hills every morning for class. But I digress.

It was March, nearly a week before Easter and mid-terms, and I was still recovering from the winter malaise, (as well as from a swollen knee that had developed from a harsh Lacrosse injury while practicing on the icy green), when I got a surprise email from my best-friend Dechen asking me to join him in St. Martin for the upcoming spring break. Deke had graduated the year before and decided in lieu of real grad school (he had deferred admission, much to his father’s chagrin, his admission to the MBA program at Harvard) to obtain that oh-so-useful degree at the LSE; affectionately known to the student body as the London School of Gin and Tonics and not so affectionately, (at least to the parents who paid the tuition) as a lame excuse of a master’s program whose sole purpose was to party it up in London for a year before pursuing a more serious track of study somewhere else… preferably at Harvard or Columbia. It was “fine” my father once said, “to attend a perfectly respectable liberal arts college as an undergraduate”, but he would “be damned if I didn’t attain at least an MBA from an Ivy League” and, “no Cornell and Penn don’t count,” he added.

I knew that I was never going to get my parent’s permission or their credit card to pay for the trip and I also knew that my winter break trip to Jackson Hole had worn my own plastic to the breaking point. I contacted the local STA Travel, which for reasons unbeknownst to me was able to secure absurdly low travel rates for college students to just about anywhere (this would become “beknownst” when the ticket I booked–Only $299!–Was on a packed to the rafters Air India flight enroute to Mumbai). I hastily packed, was on the next Amtrak to New York City, a shuttle to JFK and 36 hours later arrived on the sunny isle.

I felt a thrill of excitement at not having told anyone except my roommate Angus, who had replied in a haze of weed induced coughing, “Rad dude” and fancied myself as being on a Jason Bourne-type adventure, hoping to meet a dazzling red-head of Teutonic descent who would ultimately join me on my mission.

Having never been to St. Martin, I was overcome with excitement, an excitement that faded during the excruciatingly long, full, Air India flight. I barely had any elbow room and was seated in a middle seat in the middle aisle surrounded by what appeared to be a brood of twenty, all monitored by one very overwrought mother who was wearing a bright red and yellow sari, and couldn’t seem to control the SONY PSP carrying, crawling over their seats (and mine) litter of sons she’d sired. I stopped trying to read my Let’s Go: St. Martin and St. Maarten and dozed for what I thought was hours, until I looked up at the satellite tracking of our flight and realized we’d barely passed over Miami…

I grabbed a well read and crumpled copy of Vanity Fair from the back of the seat in front of me, excited momentarily by the promise of its cover (Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! With Shia LaBeouf no less!), when I realized that including the cover there was about four pages of Indy coverage, 20 more pages on the death of Princess Di (enough already), 10 pages of what appeared to be corpses dancing in a ballroom (Nancy Reagan, Besty Bloomingdale and friends) and an even scarier a profile of a couple who I decided must be raising the anti-Christ, Marie Chantal and Prince Pavlos of Greece. I finished the magazine, looked up and we were still somewhere over the mid-Atlantic… Good Lord.

Upon landing, I hastily made way past the curry smelling throng with their suitcases and ran for the taxi stand; where I learned upon retrieving my texts, Deke would be unable to meet me; he was stuck “tutoring” a rich Belgian–a contradiction in terms, if there ever was–girl English he’d met two days prior, but assured me I was to be met at the Cadbury Chocolate dispensing machine at the southwest exit by his roommate from LSE–and I’m not making this up–named Agamemnon. Agamemnon, a scion of the deposed Greek monarchy, had been raised in London and had attended the private Hellenic School of England. His parents in absentia of actual Greek citizenship resorted to naming their kids after ancient Greek mythology. Picturing a burly and bearded spear-throwing monarch out of 300, I was surprised by the diminutive and light-on-his-feet dark haired pixie of a kid I finally met.

Aggie, as his friends knew him and if his non-stop chatter was any indication, there weren’t many; was more than happy to show me around the island while Deke was pre-occupied as it were. Although annoying, he was more akin to a Jack Russell Terrier and relatively harmless and once slightly tuned out, actually a bit endearing with his dark crop of raven-black hair (think Milo Ventimilglia in HEROES season-one), cartoon-like large black eyes, big red lips and gleaming white teeth all on a head that appeared too big to be supported by his small skinny frame.

After dropping off my bag at their rented, er, flat, Aggie and I spent the entirety of the afternoon roaming the French side of the island. All the while “Common People” by Blur was all that was running threw my jet-lagged brain. I finally stopped while we were walking past the throngs at the beach side shack/bars and suggested we grab a drink at one of the local bars, er, pubs as he reminded me. “A pint!” Aggie exclaimed, a little too gleefully, “why of course!”

A few hours later and sufficiently inebriated, we made our way back to their place, where still after a flurry of texts I’d received no word from Deke. Aggie, despite the copious amount of alcohol he’d ingested still chattered away and I longed for an off switch. The apartment was spare, mostly IKEA and empty of food or drink. I sank into their sofa, my head pounding from the combination of drink and Aggie. I put the palm of my hands into my eyes and held them there, holding back what I felt was an impending headache of a magnitude I’d not reached in quite some time. I was miserable, I still hadn’t seen Deke, was beginning to feel guilty for not calling my parents and Aggie was hardly the dazzling Teutonic red-head I’d anticipated, I felt less and less like Jason Bourne and more like an extra on Little Britain. “I’m the only straight in the village,” I thought to myself over Aggie’s chatter, which made me laugh, and coincidentally–and thankfully–apparently dovetailed with a joke he’d just made. That’s when I noticed the ferry schedule lying on the coffee table.

I saw my escape. I quickly excused myself to the bathroom, “The Lieu!” Aggie exclaimed giggling wildly. Glancing at the ferry schedule I saw there was an outbound leaving for Anguilla in an hour. Escape! I perused the guidebook for a cheap room or hostel and decided I would book a room on the train, came out of the bathroom, and told Aggie to tell Deke I’d be back in a few days. I grabbed my bag and dashed out before Aggie could speak. I was Jason Bourne again and I was on the move.

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