Calypso Joe

The other night we were walking to dinner with Bob, the owner of our bed and breakfast, when we ran into an older black man.  He was walking in the opposite direction with a worn acoustic guitar.  Bob stopped and talked to this guy for a few minutes and then introduced him to us as “Calypso Joe”.  Joe was tall and thin with leathery cheeks that sat below bright, kind eyes.  Bob and Calypso Joe had known each other for many years and occasionally played music together.  After the brief introductions we turned up the dark, quiet street towards the restaurant and Joe came with us.  As we walked Joe began to gently strum his guitar and sing in a pleasant accent that would have sounded more at home in Jamaica than Panama.

Most of the amazing experiences in my life have been accompanied by a sense that maybe they weren’t real.  They usually felt intense but surreal.  As if a screen had descended in front of my eyes and suddenly I was only watching a movie about my life.  I expected that same surreal feeling to descend on me as I walked down the street feeling completely content.  It did not.  But two simple ideas started to cycle through my mind.

This is real.  This is awesome.

After a relaxing stroll we arrived at the restaurant.  We were the only ones on the large deck and we sat by the water.  The fans on the high ceiling above us created just enough of a breeze to wash away the heat of the day.  We ordered drinks and I looked out onto the dark water.  The lights of the other islands floated on the surface of the black water creating a shimmering alternate world.

This is awesome.  This is real.

After a few sips from his rum and coke Joe began to sing and play his guitar again.  He played Bob Marley but he added just enough of his own style to make it feel fresh.  After each song we talked and joked around.  Joe told us stories about his life on the islands.  We ordered our food and then Joe sang a Beatles song.

My cold Balboa was quickly covered in condensation which rolled onto the table and created a round puddle.  I’ll have to drink this before it gets warm I thought.  As I looked out into the night I smiled at the magnitude of my problem.

We got another round of drinks before our food came.  I had a delicious steak.  Despite the tranquil setting and quality food, in Bocas there are several other restaurants that I liked better.  For less than thirteen dollars I had some of the best meals of my life in this place.  Many of the meals that I’ve had here are not available in some parts America and if they were they would cost three times more.

Joe sang a Harry Belafonte song followed by an original song that made us all laugh.  Joe had to catch a boat back to his house on another island so he finished his drink, we gave him a couple of well-deserved dollars, and he bid us good night.  We finished our meals, paid our tab and with full bellies and the beginning of a buzz, headed out into the peaceful streets to see which bar was going off.

This is real.  This is awesome.

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2 Responses to Calypso Joe

  1. A Bittersweet Symphony moment

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