THE TRIP TO PUNTA CANA

(originally posted way back years ago…)

SUNDAY TO WEDNESDAY…
WELL, AS EXPECTED, THE BEACHES AND THE WATER WERE SPECTAC…OF COURSE THEY WOULD BE…IT WAS THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC…THE CARIBBEAN. BUT ONCE AGAIN, MY VOLUNTARY AND INVOLUNTARY POWERS OF OBSERVATION FORCED ME TO SEE FAR MORE THAN WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN COMFORTABLE. IT’S THE JUXTAPOSITION THAT ALWAYS GETS TO ME THE STRONGEST…THE GAP BETWEEN THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS…IT DOES IT TO ME EVERY TIME. I GREW UP ON LANSDOWNE AVENUE IN THE NINETEEN FIFTIES WITHOUT A DAD, THINKING I WAS “POOR”. BELIEVE ME, NOW I KNOW “POOR”. AT THESE HUGE PRIVATE FUNCTIONS, I USUALLY COME DOWN TO THE STAGE THROUGH THE KITCHEN. THIS WAS NO EXCEPTION, AND WHEN I ARRIVED TO JOIN THE FROGS ON STAGE, THE MAIN COURSE AND DESERT PLATES HAD JUST BEEN CLEARED AND BROUGHT INTO THE HUGE BACK KITCHEN. AND HERE WERE THESE LOVELY PEOPLE, THE NICEST, FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, ALL SHOVELING INSANELY HUGE AMOUNTS OF FOOD THAT HAD NEVER BEEN TOUCHED INTO DOZENS AND DOZENS OF GARBAGE BINS…KIDS, THIS IS NOT RIGHT. I KNOW IT’S AN ANCIENT, OVERLY TOLD STORY, BUT IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT. AND THE DRIVE FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE RESORT WAS ANOTHER EYE OPENER. I’VE TRAVELLED A LOT, PROBABLY MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE, AND I’VE SEEN VARIOUS LEVELS OF POVERTY. BUT THIS WAS PRETTY WELL AS BAD AS I’VE SEEN ANYWHERE. THE ISLAND AROUND ITS EDGES IS DOTTED WITH HUGE RESORTS FOR THE TOURISTAS, SO ALL ALONG THE GORGEOUS BEACHES IT’S RICH RICH RICH…
THEN YOU SEE THE INTERIOR. MY GOODNESS. VERY SOBERING SIGHTS. HOUSES THAT WERE LITERALLY TIN SHACKS, NOTHING MORE. SOME VERY STRANGE, WELL, MAYBE NOT STRANGE, BUT UNUSAL FOR ME, SIGHTS ALONG THE TRIP FROM AIRPORT TO RESORT. MANY, MANY CAR WASHES. BUT IN EACH OF THESE CAR WASHES IS A BAR.
SO I’M THINKIN’, “THIS ISN’T VERY GOOD…IF YOU’RE ALREADY AT A CAR WASH, CHANCES ARE YOU DROVE THERE, AND NOW THERE’S A BAR TO BANG A FEW BACK WHILE THEY WORK ON GETTIN’ YOUR CAR SHINY CLEAN. SO BY THE TIME YOU LEAVE, YOU COULD BE PRETTY BUZZED UP TO DRIVE…”
WE LEARNED LATER, THAT THESE PLACES ARE ACTUALLY BROTHELS, SO AT NIGHT, THERE’S NOT REALLY THAT MANY CARS GETTIN’ WASHED…
OH BROTHER…
WE WERE TOLD, VERY CASUALLY, LAUGHINGLY, BY OUR DRIVER THAT THE POLICE WERE ALL CORRUPT. WE DIDN’T REALLY DIG FOR THAT INFO EITHER…I SAID SOMETHING, DON’T EVEN REMEMBER QUITE WHAT, AS WE PASSED A POLICE STATION OUT IN THE COUNTRY, AND OUR DRIVER TOLD US IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS HOW CORRUPT THE POLICE WERE…WELL, FORTUNATELY THAT FACT DIDN’T PLAY INTO OUR EXISTENCE WHILE WE WERE THERE.
THE RESORT WAS NOTHING SHORT OF INCREDIBLY STRANGE. EVERYTHING WAS OVERSIZED, THE WAY I WOULD IMAGINE ANCIENT EGYPT TO HAVE BEEN. THE LOBBY, OR “HALL WHERE WE CHECKED IN” WAS ENORMOUS. JUST OUTSIDE MINNEAPOLIS PRINCE HAS PAISLEY PARK, A HUGE STUDIO/COMPOUND. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE TAKEN THROUGH THE WHOLE PLACE IN 1987, AND ONE THING I ALWAYS REMEMBERED WAS THIS ONE HUGE ROOM…BECAUSE IT’S BELOW ZERO HALF THE YEAR IN MINNEAPOLIS, PRINCE HAD HAD THIS ONE ROOM BUILT BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE BUSSES AND SEMI TRAILERS INTO, SO THAT ENTIRE TOURING GROUPS COULD COME THERE AND UNLOAD ANYTHING IN THE DEAD OF WINTER TO SHOOT VIDEOS. WELL, THE CHECK IN LOBBY IN THIS PLACE IN PUNTA CANA WAS BIGGER THAN THAT…AND THAT WAS ITS ONLY FUNCTION. I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT LEVEL OF WASTED SPACE IN MY LIFE. AND THE SAME WENT FOR MUCH OF THE RESORT. HUGE, HUGE, ENORMOUS, GIGANTIC ROOMS WITH ALMOST NOTHING IN THEM. THE CHECK IN LOBBY HAD A CEILING THAT WAS ALMOST FIFTY FEET HIGH. AND IT MUST HAVE BEEN AT LEAST ONE ACRE. WELL, LET’S SEE…ONE ACRE IS APPROXIMATELY ONE FOOTBALL FIELD…YEAH…THIS WAS AT LEAST THAT, PROBABLY MORE. AND THERE WAS NOTHING IN IT. ONCE, WAY BACK IN 1969, THE GUESS WHO PLAYED WEST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY. WE PLAYED IN THE MAIN MESS HALL THERE. I THOUGHT THAT ROOM WAS GIGANTIC TOO…BUT I STILL THINK THAT THIS “CHECK IN LOBBY” MIGHT HAVE BEEN BIGGER…
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE THINKING BEHIND THE CONSTRUCTION WAS, BUT IT MADE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE TO ME.
NOW, I’M NOT TYPING ALL THIS TO RAG ON THE D.R. BELIEVE ME, THE PEOPLE WERE WONDERFUL, AND SO WERE THE BEACHES. AS FAR AS THE WEATHER, MAYBE A LITTLE TOO HUMID FOR ME. I LOST SEVERAL POUNDS IN SWEAT OVER THE THREE DAYS. AND LORNE AND I WERE IN ADJOINING SUITES, WITH A COMMON GROUND ROOM BETWEEN THE TWO…THAT ROOM HAD MOULD IN IT ALREADY, AND THIS RESORT HADN’T EVEN BEEN OPEN SIX MONTHS. MOULD FRIGHTENS ME MORE THAN INSECTS OR EARTHQUAKES OR A LOT OF THINGS. IF MOULD GETS INTO YOUR LUNGS, YOU’RE IN FOR A SLOW, PAINFUL CRAWL TO THE GRAVE…SO, NEEDLESS TO SAY, LORNE AND I AVOIDED THAT IN BETWEEN ROOM COMPLETELY.
MONDAY NIGHT I COULDN’T SLEEP, SO I WENT DOWN TO THE OCEAN AROUND MIDNIGHT. IT WAS A FULL MOON, WITHOUT A CLOUD ANYWHERE. SPECTAC. IT WAS SO BRIGHT IT FELT AS THOUGH THE BEACH WERE LIT. WELL IT WAS, EXCEPT IT WAS LIT BY THE UNIVERSE, NOT BY MAN. I WENT INTO THE WATER AT ABOUT TWELVE THIRTY AT NIGHT AND IT WAS STILL LIKE A WARM BATH. THE OCEAN AFTER MIDNIGHT…STILL WARM…NOTHING LIKE THAT UNDER A FULL MOON. REALLY SOMETHING FOR THE SENSES. ALMOST “OVERLOAD OF TREMEND” IF YA KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
BUT I MUST SAY IN ALL HONESTY, THE FOOD WAS NOT THAT TREMEND. AND A FEW OF THE CONVENTIONERS GOT SICK…WHO KNOWS…IT COULD BE SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS A SALAD WITH SOME LETTUCE THAT HAD BEEN WASHED IN BAD WATER…IT’S THAT EASY. BACTERIA ARE SMALL AND STUBBORN, AND BESIDES THAT, THEY TRAVEL WELL. THE WHOLE TIME WE WERE THERE, WE HAD NO DRINKS WITH ICE IN THEM. ONE NIGHT JEFFY JONES HAD SOME RUM AND COKE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE…UGH…YA REALLY GOTTA WANT A BUZZ PRETTY BAD TO GO THAT ROUTE.
ME, I STUCK TO THE ONE BEER YOU COULD GET THERE. THERE’S ONLY ONE BEER IN THE D.R. IT’S MADE IN THE D.R. IT’S CALLED “EL PRESIDENTE” AND I MUST SAY, IT’S TREMEND. JUST TREMEND. LOOK, I’VE GOT A LOT OF IRISH IN ME, AND I KNOW MY BEER. IT’S ALMOST THE ONLY ALCOHOL I DRINK ANYMORE, EXCEPT IF SOMEBODY REALLY KNOWS HOW TO MAKE A GREAT MARGARITA. SO I REALLY KNOW MY BEER…WELL, THIS STUFF, THE EL PRESIDENTE, THE BEER OF THE D.R. WAS SENSAISH. MATTER OF FACT, THAT NIGHT AFTER I WAS FINISHED MY SET, I DOWNED A FEW AND WAITED FOR THE FROGS TO DO AN HOUR BY THEMSELVES FOR THE FOLKS. THEN WE ALL HAD A FEW MORE.
I WOULD PAY DEARLY FOR THAT BEHAVIOUR THE NEXT DAY. CAME WEDNESDAY MORNING, I WAS FEELING GREAT AND LORNE AND I WERE PICKED UP AND DRIVEN BACK TO THE AIRPORT. WE CHECKED IN, GAVE THEM OUR BAGS AND WENT TO SIT BY THE AMERICAN AIRLINES GATE. WE WOULD FLY BACK TO MIAMI, AND THEN CONNECT TO L.A. FROM THERE, PRECISELY THE WAY WE HAD GONE.
SO IT’S TIME FOR THE FLIGHT TO MIAMI. ABOUT THREE HUNDRED OF US PASSENGERS ARE MARCHED OUT ONTO THE TARMAC AND WE’RE ALMOST AT THE STEPS LEADING UP ONTO THE PLANE, WHEN A WOMAN TURNS US ALL AROUND AND MARCHES US BACK INSIDE THE AIRPORT. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON…THEN, TWO MINUTES LATER, THE AMERICAN AIRLINES REP OF PUNTA CANA TELLS US THAT OUR FLIGHT IS CANCELLED BECAUSE THE PILOT IS DRUNK. AND SOME OF THE OTHER AIRLINE PEOPLE ARE SAYING “INTOXICADA, INTOXICADA”…
OH BROTHER.
WELL, SO NOW HERE’S LORNE AND ME, HALF WAY ROUND THE WORLD FROM HOME, WITH OUR FLIGHT CANCELLED. MY FIRST REACTION WAS NOT PANIC…JUST ANGER. WE WERE NOW STRANDED. COULD THEY GET ANOTHER PILOT ? WE DIDN’T KNOW. ABOUT FORTY FIVE MINUTES GOES BY WITHOUT ANY INFORMATION BEING VOLUNTEERED TO US. NOW THE EL PRESIDENTE’S I HAD DOWNED THE NIGHT BEFORE COME INTO PLAY. THE AIRPORT IS NOT REALLY A BUILDING, IT’S JUST HUGE THATCHED HUTS. AND BY NOW, IT’S AFTERNOON AND IT’S ABOUT NINETY -SEVEN DEGREES PLUS, AND THE HUMIDITY IS STIFLING. AND WE’RE MILLING AMONGST ABOUT THREE HUNDRED OTHER PEOPLE ALL OF WHOM ARE NOW STUCK…NOW I’M SWEATING BULLETS. NOW I’M SWEATING OUT THE EL PRESIDENTE’S. I’M FROM CANADA, I DON’T DO WELL WITH HIGH HUMIDITY AND HEAT. ONE OF THE REASONS I ALWAYS LIKED L.A. SO MUCH WAS THAT IT’S NOT OVERBEARINGLY HOT, LIKE FLORIDA OR PALM SPRINGS OR PHOENIX OR THE TROPICS. WELL, THE HEAT IN PUNTA CANA WAS NOW BEATING ME UP…REALLY, REALLY BEATING ME UP.
NOW HERE’S WHERE BURTON PICKS UP THE PHONE IN LOS ANGELES AND ORDERS FROM “WINES OF THE WORLD” AT THE BOTTOM OF THE HILL. THEY DELIVER. THE GUY AT WOTW SAYS “WELL WHAT CAN WE BRING YOU TONIGHT, MR. CUMMINGS…?”
I REPLY “BRING ME SOMETHING THAT WILL GO WELL WITH CROW…”

WERE IT NOT FOR LORNE’S BLACKBERRY, I WOULDN’T BE TYPING THIS RIGHT NOW TO YOU. I WOULDN’T BE HOME YET, AS I’M SURE MANY OF THOSE THREE HUNDRED OTHERS ARE NOT. SOMEHOW, LORNE GOT A TEXT OUT TO OUR TRAVEL GUY, RENALDO, IN TORONTO, EXPLAINING OUR PREDICAMENT. AT THIS POINT, AMERICAN AIRLINES IS ANNOUNCING THAT WE WILL “ALL BE TAKEN TO A HOTEL, AND WILL BE PICKED UP AT FIVE A.M. TOMORROW MORNING AND RE ROUTED AND RE BOOKED.”
OH BROTHER…SO NOW, I’M NOT FEELING VERY GOOD AT ALL. LORNE’S STARTING TO WEAR DOWN WITH THE HUMIDITY…AFTER ALL, HE’S A WHOLE YEAR OLDER THAN ME…NOT TEN MINUTES LATER HE GETS A TEXT BACK FROM RENALDO SAYING THAT THERE’S A DELTA FLIGHT LEAVING PUNTA CANA IN TWENTY MINUTES AND HE’S SQUEEZED US INTO FIRST CLASS IF WE CAN MAKE IT OVER THERE.
WE’VE ONLY JUST AT THIS POINT GOTTEN OUR BAGS BACK, WHICH HAD ALREADY BEEN LOADED ONTO THE PLANE WITH THE DRUNK PILOT. AMERICAN HAS ALREADY TOLD EVERYONE THAT THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO MORE FLIGHTS LEAVING PUNTA CANA THAT DAY. THE BEST ANYONE CAN DO IS TOMORROW MORNING. AND THAT’S WHEN ALL THE RE ROUTING AND RE BOOKING WILL HAVE TO BE DONE.
LORNE JUST DIDN’T ACCEPT THIS. GOD BLESS HIM, I SAW A TREMENDOUS PERFORMANCE OF WILL TAKE PLACE RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY EYES. DRENCHED IN HIS OWN SWEAT, LORNE DISAPPEARS UPSTAIRS WITH THIS YOUNG DOMINICAN GUY WHO’S YAMMERING AT HIM HALF IN SPANISH AND HALF IN ENGLISH…LORNE YELLS AT ME TO WATCH OUR BAGS AND THE NEXT SIGHT I SEE IS LORNE AND THIS DELTA AIRLINES DOMINICAN GUY RUSHING UP THE STAIRS TO AN OFFICE, WITH LORNE HOLDING UP HIS BLACKBERRY IN THIS GUY’S FACE, SCREAMING AT HIM “LOOK…WE’RE BOOKED…RIGHT HERE…LOOK…FIRST CLASS…WE’RE BOOKED…!!!!!!”
THE SIGHT OF HIM HOLDING UP THAT BLACKBERRY LIKE ONE OF THE SACRED TABLETS MOSES BROUGHT DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN IS SOMETHING I SHALL TAKE WITH ME TO THE NEXT LIFETIME AND ALL THE OTHER ONES AFTER THAT…
SO I SIT DOWN ON THE CONCRETE FLOOR WITH THE BAGS, CAUSE I JUST CAN’T STAND UP ANYMORE IN THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY…
TICK TICK TICK…MINUTES GO BY…I’M SITTING ON THE FLOOR WATCHING ABOUT FOUR HUNDRED PEOPLE FROM FRANCE, LINED UP IN THE HEAT, CHECKING IN TO THE CHARLES DE GAULLE LINE…STILL NO LORNE…TICK TICK TICK…ANOTHER PINT OF LAST NIGHT’S EL PRESIDENTE ROLLS OUT OF MY POOR WRETCHED BODY, AND TRICKLES TOWARD THE CONCRETE FLOOR…
STILL NO LORNE…FIVE OR TEN MORE MINUTES AND I’M THINKING NOW THAT WE’RE THERE FOR THE NIGHT…
SUDDENLY LORNE AND THIS YOUNG GUY RUN BACK DOWN THE STAIRS WITH BAGGAGE TAGS, BOARDING PASSES AND A LOTTA SPEED IN THEIR HEELS…LORNE’S MOVING LIKE A SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD HIGH SCHOOL QUARTERBACK, GRABBING BAGS, HANDING ME MY BOARDING PASS, GETTING OUR PASSPORTS READY, WE’RE RUNNIN’ IN THIS HEAT, AND I MEAN RUNNIN’…AND WE GET TO THE DELTA AREA, WHICH IS ABOUT “THREE HUTS DOWN” (SEE AIRPORT PHOTO TO UNDERSTAND LAYOUT)…IT WAS A LONG WAY IN THE HEAT…LORNE AND THIS DELTA GUY ARE WAY AHEAD OF ME, I’M TRAILIN’ THEM BY TEN OR TWENTY YARDS, LITERALLY LEAVING A TRAIL OF SWEAT BEHIND ME…AND SOMEHOW WE GET THERE, OUR BAGS SOMEHOW GET ON THE PLANE, AND THERE WE ARE FLYING TO ATLANTA…
OH BROTHER…
THE BLACKBERRY. WITHOUT IT, WE WOULDN’T BE HOME YET. AS SEVERAL GOOD PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME REPEATEDLY “BURTON, IT’S NOT THE CELL PHONES AND BLACKBERRYS THAT ARE THE PROBLEM…IT’S THE INCONSIDERATE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THEM AND USE THEM WITH DISREGARD.”
I SEE THAT MORE CLEARLY NOW, NOW THAT ONE OF THEM HAS ACTUALLY SAVED ME NOT ONLY A DAY AND A HALF OF MY LIFE, BUT SAVED ME IMMEASURABLE STRESS. IT WAS ABOUT FOUR HOURS TO ATLANTA, THEN WE SAT THERE ABOUT TWO HOURS, THEN WE FLEW ANOTHER FOUR HOURS OR SO TO L.A. GOT BACK TO THE HOUSE ABOUT ONE IN THE MORNING. SO FROM SUNDAY TO WEDNESDAY, WE WENT LITERALLY HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD AND BACK, AND ALMOST GOT STUCK THERE…OR WORSE YET, WE COULD HAVE BEEN ON A PLANE WITH A DRUNK PILOT. LOOK ON A MAP WHERE L.A. IS AND THEN WHERE PUNTA CANA IS…THAT’S A LONG WAY, FOLKS.
THE D.R. IS GORGEOUS…SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES I’VE EVER SEEN. BUT I’LL STILL TAKE HAWAII ANYDAY…THE BEACHES ARE JUST AS NICE IN HAWAII, BUT THE BIG DIFFERENCE IS THAT YOU CAN GO FROM THOSE BEAUTIFUL BEACHES RIGHT TO THE GOOD OLD SEVEN ELEVEN. I GUESS I’M A SUCKER FOR THE DECADENCE. I TRY TO BE AS OBJECTIVE AS POSSIBLE ABOUT ALL THINGS. HONESTLY TRY TO SEE THINGS FROM MORE THAN MY OWN POINT OF VIEW…BUT WHEN IT COMES RIGHT DOWN TO IT, I’M JUST AS WEAK AND PRONE TO “EASINESS” AS THE NEXT GUY…
I’LL TELL YOU MORE ABOUT THE D.R. LATER, BUT RIGHT NOW, I WANT TO INVESTIGATE SOME MORE OLD FOLDERS HERE IN MY TOWER…IT’S CHOCK FULL OF RECOLLECTIONS FROM YEARS GONE BY…
PEACE AND KINDNESS…
AND A LACK OF CRISIS OR PAIN…
I SEND ABSOLUTELY THE BEST THOUGHTS POSSIBLE TO WHOMEVER HAS READ THIS FAR…
BLC

About Burton Cummings

Recipient, Order of Canada & Order of Manitoba. Voice & Songwriter: American Woman (6m+ plays), These Eyes, (5m+ plays) & Stand Tall.

Comments

  1. Kevin Suter says

    Oh I feel your pain. I have had similar airport experiences in the Philippines. Ask Reynaldo! The trick with the humidity is to avoid too much time in air conditioned places. Your body will acclimate after a day or two….

  2. Christine Campbell says

    Thank you for re-posting this story. It’s always helpful to be reminded, as you do in concert before the “Share the Land” encore how good we have it here in Canada, and how this is often not the case elsewhere. The contrast between rich and poor in some third world countries is both startling and heart breaking.

    But the heat is always something we Canadians will have difficulty with. I was once in Las Vegas (no humidity there!) when the thermometer hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit. Way too hot for me! Glad you were able to get out of the airport ok without too much of a delay.

  3. Patty Powers says

    I’ve always been a traveler and can recall many of these experiences, but without the Blackberry or a Lorne to save us. But I was much younger then and a lot more adventurous. Now, my travels are more organized. I like arriving in a strange place and being met at the airport…

  4. Cindy Burnay says

    Wow! Quite a story. The way you write it makes us feel we are right there with you. I share your “attitude of gratitude” for living in this great country! Thank you so much for posting this.

  5. rae jones says

    Burton that was a good story. From the sea washed in moonlight to sitting and suffering in the heat and humidity trying to get home, and Lorne with his “Moses tablet” (formerly known as the Blackberry), what an trip. Cheers, to your good health Sir!

  6. Janet Rickard says

    Haha! One of my favorite stories. I thought of this one last week when I was taking a dance class and sweat was dripping off of me like I was in the shower right on to my teacher.

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