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Bimini: An Island in the Stream
What is it about translucent ocean water that so stirs the soul? Do we have some evolutionary memory of a time as sea creatures? Or is freediving as close as we will get to flying? Whatever the reason, come the middle of winter I begin to dream of the long delirious blue, and this year we came to Bimini, the haunt of people from Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Adam Clayton Powell, and, ahem, Gary Hart, not to mention Prohibition-era rum runners and latter-day drug smugglers:
The Gulf Stream shoots through the 50-mile-wide gap between Miami and Bimini’s two small islands (reaching over 5 mph at times), and in waters that everyone here describes as “magical,” marine life big and small is abundant. We swam several milles offshore with wild dolphins and learned to spearfish (only with a Hawaiian sling, guns of all types being banned in the Bahamas). The locals make a living off of tourism: hotels and small restaurants and various home businesses that cook meals to order or prepare cookies and cakes in their private kitchens (Charlie’s makes great cheesecake, and we had made-from-scratch Key lime and coconut cream pies from Nate’s).
Ernest Hemingway spent many months in 1935-37 on Bimini. He came with his boat, Pilar, and he fished for tuna, swordfish and marlin. An encounter with an enormous marlin is said to have inspired The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote part of To Have and To Have Not in the still-extant Marlin House (right), and his time here inspired Islands in the Stream. Hemingway would rent Marlin House, or he would stay at the Compleat Angler Hotel; the hotel and his other haunts — a long list of bars — have all since been destroyed by fire or hurricane.
Bimini styles itself as not only the Bahamas’ but the world’s conch capital, and from orations reminiscent of Bubba in Forrest Gump, we have learned to list the mollusk’s different preparations: cracked conch, scorched conch, conch salad, conch burger, conch chowder, conch fritters, steamed conch, fried conch, stewed conch, smoked conch, conch soup, and so on. Each conch shack on the beach has a semi-submeged cage full of pretty shells with live conchs in them. When you place an order, the chef repairs to the beach and selects a few, whacks a small opening on the top of each shell with a jeweler’s hammer, uses a long knife to detach the conch from its point of attachment to the shell, then winkles out the critter. After slicing to remove the inedible bits, and then various types of dicing (depending on the preparation), you end up eating raw conch flesh within five or so minutes of the creature’s demise. Quite delicious.
Addendum: Biminian speech contains several creative euphemisms: “summer crab” is the term for lobster taken out of season (fishing for spiny lobster is forbidden in April, May, June and July); and “square grouper” is most the desirable catch of all: a large bale of plastic-wrapped marijuana, probably thrown overboard from an under-duress smuggler’s boat, that has washed up on shore.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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