Mixing Crocodiles With Blonde Hair

As a child, I loved my grandmother’s stories of the places that she’d been and the things that she’d done. As a result, I was bitten early by the wanderlust, and when that bug bites you, you live with the sting.

And following in my grandmother’s peripatetic footsteps, although I could never hope to fill her shoes, it’s been my fate, my great joy, and my immense good fortune to endlessly wander the less traveled paths on this marvelous planet. And to pay it forward, I consider myself obligated to do as my grandmother did, to bring back the tales of the things that I’ve seen and heard. And in that context, yes, I do remember saying that I would tell the tale of the crocodile and the tufela Panadol.

But first, my wandering today took me into town, where once again I was amazed by the endless beauty of the human form. It’s been raining the last few days, no surprise there. But only a light rain, not a gully-washer or a frog-strangler as happens frequently in the tropics. So the waterfront has been somewhat sleepy. but not deserted …

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Didn’t matter to the taxi drivers, however, they were out in force lining the road for their Christmas party …

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Regarding the human form, the Solomons is the only place I know of where you find black people with blonde hair … go figure. It’s not from Europeans.  I’ve seen kids with skin so dark it almost hurts your eyes, and blonde hair. And I gotta say, it is lovely. Here’s a picture from the web …

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Kinky blonde hair is awesome! What brought this to mind was a lovely couple of folks I saw walking down the street together, light and dark, a study in contrasts.

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What a gorgeous smile, and her hair …

Other than that, though, my trip to town was a total bust and an abysmal failure. I was on a very simple mission, or so I thought. I only wanted to buy three things, so no problemo:

Onions

UHT Milk

Paper Towels

On the boat, we were down to the last roll of paper towels, half an onion (since consumed), and half a box of UHT milk. (You don’t see much UHT milk in the States but it is very common in developing countries. It’s ultra-heat-treated so it doesn’t need refrigeration, hence UHT.)

I went to four different Chinese shops. Onions? They’d heard of them, but yes, they didn’t have any.

UHT Milk? Blank faces. When I said “milk long bokis”, milk in a box, their faces lit up, and they said yes, they didn’t have any.

(Let me say in passing that in the Solomons and many other developing countries, if you say “You don’t have eggs in stock, do you”, they will say “Yes”, as in “Yes we don’t.” … and that’s not the only problem. The Islanders are generally unwilling to disappoint someone. So if you are walking and you say “Is the village nearby” they will say “Yes” because that’s what they think you want to hear. On the other hand, if you say “Is the village far away”, they will also say “Yes”. After years of dealing with this, my rule is to ask a three-part question as follows:

Is the village nearby, or is it far away, or you don’t know?

It’s important to give people the option to say “I don’t know”. If that’s not an explicit choice, they often won’t admit to not knowing. But again I see I’ve left the main road of my story to wander along a side trail … it’s easy to get lost in the Solos.)

But paper towels? No idea. Blank stares. I got shown all kinds of towels—hand towels, face towels, bath towels, dish towels, shop towels, baby towels, beach towels, I had no idea there were so many kinds … but towels made of paper? Foreign concept.

I came home emptyhanded and put Brooks and Dunn on the computer singing “Lost and Found” …

It’s kinda like lost and found in a border town
Askin’ ’bout a diamond ring
They just look at you like you lost your mind
Say they haven’t seen a thing …

I do love country music. It’s the only musical genre where they actually talk about adult stuff, like the following lyric about the truest love:

Well they say time takes its toll on your body
Makes a young woman’s brown hair turn gray.
Well, honey, I don’t care, I ain’t in love with your hair
And if it all fell out, well I’d love you anyway …

Or this one, about a lost love:

And now, I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain … but I’d have had to miss the dance.

Heck, just one line in a country song can say it all. Take this one for example:

I’m so miserable without you, it’s almost like you’re here …

Rock, folk, classical, country, rap, western, Delta blues, TexMex, bluegrass … I like almost all the genres, but outside of country music, it’s rare to find that kind of humorous and empathetic understanding of the travails, losses, and gains of our all-too-human lives.

So I’ve been recovering from my fruitless trip by prescribing myself a double dose of country music to be taken aurally, and by considering that things could be much worse. I mean, but for the fall of the dice I might have ended up being the poor bugger in the UK that I read about last night …

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Someone seems to have misplaced the planet I grew up on, switched it out when I was asleep or something … what happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” It was drilled into us as a matter of pride and honor in my youth to not let what people said get under your skin … autre temps, autre moeurs, I guess, although I never expected to have to apply that to my own life.

Seeing that poor gentleman’s fate, however, you might understand why I’ve spent so many years hanging out in the less “civilized” parts of the globe … whatever he’s got, it just might be contagious …

But again I’ve wandered off the trail … so to return to my unsuccessful town trip, after twenty years spent living in the tropics, let me tell you the most important lesson I have learned.

… but first, as prologue to the lesson I learned, I need to explain that I can’t remember ever hearing my mom swear. The closest she’d come was if she truly didn’t care about something. She’d say “Well, I don’t give a rat’s patootie about that!”.

And the lesson I learned in twenty tropical years?

The Universe doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about what I think should happen next.

Truly. It doesn’t. Not even one measly rat’s worth of patootie. Who knew?

Well, certainly not me as a young man … but that’s not the whole lesson, because it turns out that you and I do have a choice in the matter. Oh, not a choice to make the universe do what I want it to do, that choice is off the table. The only choice we have is this:

The Universe will do what it does, and I can either dig it or whine about it.

So having failed miserably in my town trip, I could end up with depression and confidence issues and have to take time off for my anxiety … but instead, my choice is to put on Brooks and Dunn, turn up the volume to 11, dance around the wheelhouse in my bare feet, and take as much joy out of an unsuccessful venture as I do out of a successful venture. Because in truth, it was a wonderful trip to town, full of laughter and light, no milk, friendly folks, rain, no onions, blonde hair, unfriendly shopkeepers, no paper towels, celebrating taxi drivers with balloons, and good conversations with various and sundry … hey, what’s not to like?

… and the crocodile and tufela Panadol? Alas, I fear tonight’s tale has already run on too long for that, so the crocodile will have to wait for another day. However, good stories are like wine, they improve with age … and crocodiles don’t mind waiting, they’re a bunch of reptiles after all, what’s time to them?

Dusk here. Somewhere out in the mangroves, perhaps within eyesight, a crocodile is going to sleep .. but one of its eyes is still open, watching, patiently waiting. And while it waits, the warm rain continues to fall on saints, sinners, and crocodiles equally. An outboard skiff goes past the window. I wave, they smile and wave back, and the boat rocks gently with the wake … another tropical evening afloat.

Best to all, and regarding the story of the tufela Panadol, I promise to tell it after a while …

… crocodile …

w.

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22 thoughts on “Mixing Crocodiles With Blonde Hair

    • My absolute favorite Country song (just for the title alone, which is often the best part of country songs), By Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks:

      I’ve talked to your mother and I’ve talked to your dad
      They say they’ve tried but it’s all in vain
      I’ve begged and I’ve pleaded, I even got mad
      Now we must face it, you give me a pain

      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
      Keep telling you day after day
      But you won’t listen, you always stay and stay
      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?

      Your never ending presence really cramps my style
      I dream that it won’t always be the same
      At first I was attracted but after a while
      Have you ever heard of the hard-to-get game?

      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
      I keep telling you day after day
      But you won’t listen, you always stay and stay
      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
      And I mean it, too

      Out of three billion people, why must it be me?
      Oh, why, oh, why won’t you cut me loose?
      Just do me a favor and listen to my plea
      I’m not the only chicken on the roost

      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
      I keep telling you day after day
      But you won’t listen, you always stay and stay
      How can I miss you when you won’t go away?

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  1. “Let me say in passing that in the Solomons and many other developing countries, if you say “You don’t have eggs in stock, do you”, they will say “Yes”, as in “Yes we don’t.”

    My wife answers like that too. I’ve often had my suspicions of her origins!

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  2. I’m not a fan of country music, even though I live in a “country” city, but one of my favourite lyrics is still, “Here’s a quarter: call someone who cares.”

    Your crocodile story is beginning to sound to me a bit like making rock soup. 🙂

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      • Yep. Something rather more like that. 🙂 I’m not sure if I’ve read this before, but it sounds familiar, and it was more what I had in mind than rock soup. Always the tease, never the payoff.

        I had to laugh aloud at this bit: “They’d tried missionaries every other way and never could get any good out of ‘em.”

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      • By and large I don’t intend to rest on my laurels while you turn a blind eye to our diehard waiting for the crocodile story, as this may be a white elephant dressed in pink shoes that will bring crocodile tears to our eyes and somehow part of a bald face example of Jim Blaine or Russian collusion run amok that may lead us to paint the town red or at least put lipstick on the local pig.

        I’ll check you later …. alligator ….

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  3. In 1971 I was in Sorong in West Papua (Irian Jaya) delivering diesel, kerosene and gasoline, 500 tons of each, which lasted the area for about 6 months. There were almost 11 miles of road at that time, or more than 10 anyway. The Pilot came out in a dugout paddled by a small boy. He was a real Pilot with a white hat and everything but with little idea of shiphandling. My wife fed him with Coke while I put the ship alongside.
    Er …. that is, Coca Cola, not the white powder you understand.
    One of the oil jetty hands had bright red hair and we thought at the time there was a hint of Australian serviceman or Dutch administrator somewhere in his ancestry.
    Now we know better.
    Fascinating.

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  4. “Is the village nearby, or is it far away, or you don’t know?”

    One thing I’ve observed in our corner of the world is, if you ask a string of options separated by “or” people will answer, “Yes” when they hear the one that is correct.

    Example: “Do you use a .22 or a 12 gauge for seals?”
    “Yes.”

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  5. As another poor bugger in the UK (but hopefully wired up a bit better than the one you quote):-
    “He said: She made constant comments about my appearance and how I dressed – comments about my hairy chest and what I liked in a woman.”

    Well, here in the UK, there is a traditional response to that last query. Or rather a variety of responses, all with pretty much the same meaning but all starting with “My…” Can’t go further, on a family oriented blog.

    We aren’t all as dopey as that “poor gentleman”, nor perhaps as “politically correct”.

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    • Thaks, Martin. I’ve known amazing folks from the UK. It just seems like, as in the US, there’s a minority suffer from the same kind of politically correct indoctrination that seems all to prevalent these days, from the media to the educational system.

      w.

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      • My workmate says of me at times that I’m not “Stig of the Dump” but the dump itself.
        I have never been worried about my sartorial look as long as I’m comfortable I’m happy.
        When we got married the vicar said at the start of the service that it was nice to see me looking smart for once.

        James Bull

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  6. My wife who has MS and I have come to live a bit like that in that you plan to go somewhere or do something and come the day or time and I’ll look at her and say no we’ll leave it for now and maybe tomorrow we’ll try again or do something else.
    It can be difficult for other people to understand that plans can change or be abandoned at a moments notice.
    I do enjoy your tails of life.

    James Bull

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  7. “There’s a store down the street
    It’s run by a Greek.
    He sells good things to eat,
    But you should hear him speak!

    No matter what you ask him for,
    He never will say “No” –
    He simply “Yes”-es you to death,
    And as he takes your dough, he tells you

    “YES! we have no bananas…””

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  8. 20’s music-hall staple, apparently; I found it on youtube. Many people have re-done it since, including Harry Chapin’s doleful dirge of a semi-trailer-load of mashed bananas in Scranton, P.A., and a delightful takedown by Spike Jones and the City Slickers – I invite your perusal 😉

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