In l967, when Georgene Dreishpoon and her husband Irving read a National Geographic article about the Bahamas, a mental seed was planted that would sprout seven years later when they embarked on an unforgettable and magical ferry ride to the island of Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas.
In her fascinating memoir, Pursuit of Paradise, Dreishpoon shares her experiences as a member of an American family who sought a fishing retreat in the Bahamas and, in the process, discovered lifelong friendships and ultimately faced the fact that even in paradise, the realities of life lurk in the background. For sixty days a year, the Dreishpoons left their life in America and lived on an island that captured their imaginations and their souls. Through entertaining anecdotes, Dreishpoon provides a glimpse into how her family immersed themselves in a new culture, learned to communicate with local inhabitants, and acquired a taste for new food—all while cherishing their time together as they experienced a new adventure.
Pursuit of Paradise chronicles nearly twenty-five years of amazing stories of one family’s extraordinary experiences on a beautiful Bahamian island that affected their philosophy of living and loving forever.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Pursuit of ParadiseMemoir of a Bahama Mama
By Georgene S. Dreishpoon
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Georgene S. Dreishpoon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDiscovering Paradise
In 1967, National Geographic magazine published an article about the Bahamas: "A Paradise of 700 Islands." While reading it, my husband, Irving, called out to me, "You won't believe this. There is a picture of Curtis Mendelson on a large fishing boat, strapped in a fighting chair and battling a large tuna. He looks great, like Ernest Hemingway." Curt's long legs straddled the fishing pole. His athletic, muscular body arched forward over the reel; a salt-and-pepper beard hugged his intense face. "Yanked from his chair by 360 pounds of hooked fury, Dr. Curtis Mendelson battles a bluefin during the International Tuna Match off Bimini," read the caption.
In 1951, Curt was my husband's professor of obstetrics and genecology. At age forty-two, Curt bolted from a busy New York City medical practice to live and work on an out island in the Bahamas and to pursue his first love-fishing. My husband had just celebrated his forty-second birthday, and fishing was also his first love. Besides, who doesn't love paradise? Curt had done what most men only dream about, and Irv's reaction to seeing this picture was, "Who's crazy?"
Curt's colleagues, as Irving knew, judged him to have "flipped out." Curt had been a physician with a Park Avenue practice, a professor at prestigious New York hospital, and author of a widely acclaimed textbook on cardiac diseases in pregnancy. He had all the fringe benefits that accompany success in life: a showplace home on the water in Sands Point, Long Island; a private amphibian plane; and a wife, Marie, who had successfully published a definitive textbook on nutrition.
You can add to his possessions a maverick personality. He flew his plane over the seven hundred islands in the Bahamas in search of a small out island for his new home. When he flew over the Abaco Islands and sighted Green Turtle Cay, he said to his wife, "I hope the fuck you like this place, Marie, because this is where we are going to live." They had no children, plenty of funds, and she was a co-operative wife. He was destined to be the island's doctor for over thirty years.
My husband's memories of Curt dated back to the early 1950s, when Irving was twenty-six years old and a resident on call in labor and delivery at a New York hospital. One night, he was to notify Curt when his patient was close to her delivery time. Curt responded to his call, "I'll be there in a few minutes." This puzzled my husband, because Curt's home was over an hour from the hospital. What Irving later learned was that Curt had landed his seaplane on the East River, jumped onto his Honda motorcycle parked at the landing area, and biked in and out of the traffic along the East River Drive to the medical center in record time. When he arrived at labor and delivery, he punched my husband in the ribs and said, "OK, Wet Fork, I'm here. Let's deliver the patient." ("Wet Fork" was Curt's nickname for Irving, since his mnemonic for Irving's last name was "Dry Spoon.")
One never knows when a mental seed is planted, but that 1967 National Geographic article planted a mental seed for us that would sprout seven years later, when we would reconnect with Curt. We were thinking ahead to 1975, when my husband would celebrate his fiftieth birthday. Thoughts of retirement are part of the aging syndrome, and so it was with my spouse. Our fantasy was a special family vacation retreat that would give us a variety of choices, all warm. We were ready to run from New York state's winter weather, and researching potential vacation areas was exciting.
Our criteria, in order of importance: good fishing, good fishing, good fishing. We were naive as to economics and politics. Our romantic visions clouded practicalities. We had been to the islands of Jamaica, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Martinique, and St. Thomas. We had travelled to Canada, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Scotland, Ireland, England, and Brazil. We had crossed the continental U.S.A. north, south, east, and west. Now, with a different intention, we scheduled new explorations.
We started with the Florida Keys. Since fishing was our prerequisite, we hired professional guides to acquaint us with the habitat of the bonefish and tarpon from Key Largo to Key West. We never saw a bonefish or a tarpon. As we were being poled along the flats, we did have a shark chase a live shrimp left dangling on a fishing line in the water. At the end of our trip, we didn't discount Florida completely; fishing is, after all, unpredictable. However, the bumper-to-bumper traffic on A1A highway, along with the proliferation of mobile home parks, negated the romance for us. We returned home disappointed.
At this time, our youngest daughter, Nancy, was fifteen. She had recently visited with a Bahamian school friend, Debby Morley, at their family home on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. Nancy convinced us, by her description of the pink-sand beaches and the clearness of the water, that we should research the Bahamian out islands, since they were known for fishing. In the spring of 1974, we booked our introductory trip to the Bahamas. We planned to meet with John Morley in Nassau before researching Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, and Curt. As a realtor, John would have valuable information for us, and we were eager to find out how Curt's retirement decision had held up over the years. We would take a flight to Nassau, have a short stay on Paradise Island, and continue on to the out islands of Abaco, where we had reserved a villa at the Treasure Cay Hotel and Resort.
Our trip from the U.S. was an environmental enlightenment. As we approached the Bahamas, the change in the color of the sea was dramatic. The dark, murky waters of the polluted Florida shoreline changed from a dark blue to a lighter blue, and then to a radiant blue-green. In the Bahamas, the white sand was most visible in the tidal area, called flats, around the islands. We learned that these flats were the quintessential game-fishing arenas for bonefish. My husband, on his fishing quest, had graduated from trout and salmon and now dreamed about the pursuit of the elusive bonefish.
After checking in at our hotel on Paradise Island, we were eager to explore the city. We spent two hours trying to catch the transport bus to downtown Nassau. You would think we were speaking a different language. We were never in the right place at the right time. After running a marathon from station to station, we managed to catch the bus at one of the casinos and to catch our breath on the ride to town. Tourists streamed into the streets. Smartly dressed police in black, red, and white uniforms were in polite evidence. We breezed through the shops just to get an impression, walked the waterfront, and then went for our meeting with Morley Realtors.
John Morley was eager to help. We told him we wanted great fishing, a location accessible to an airport, and a simple cottage, because we couldn't spend big bucks. He advised us to go to Treasure Cay since it was a new development on the island of Abaco and well financed.
"Several airlines provide service. One is a Florida airline called Mackey; also the national airline of the Bahamas, Bahamas Air. This resort resembles the typical Florida complex: private homes, condominiums, an eighteen-hole golf course, all-weather tennis courts, hotel facility, a large luxury marina, a small shopping center, and a beach designated as one of the most beautiful in the world. The home purchasers are primarily from Germany, Britain, Canada, and the U.S.A. As for a home, you would be wise to buy a finished product. Island construction is not for the innocent. Beware of buying land; titles are frequently not clear. Squatters claim the land and then sell the bush to innocent foreigners." He emphatically added, "Whatever you do, don't build." One last piece of advice: "Try to find land on the water."
We found Treasure Cay to be as he had described it. Our vision of our retirement home was enhanced by our stroll on the white-sand beach in front of our rented villa and the view of Green Turtle Cay in the distance. Our curiosity was bursting to see how Curt had fared over the years. However, trying to connect with him brought another enlightenment. There was only one phone available for public use at Treasure Cay, and we waited for our turn to use it.
Curt was surprised and pleased to receive our call. He advised us, "Take the morning ferry and I will meet you at the village dock. Plan on staying for lunch. I want you to see my home and meet my wife, Marie. We have lots to catch up on."
The ferry ride from Treasure Cay to Green Turtle was another environmental gift. The green and white ferry was small, windowed, and friendly in the sea that stretched just a few miles from shore to shore. As we approached GTC, the village looked as though it had jumped out of a painting by Alton Lowe, the leading Bahamian artist at that time. Multicolored clapboard houses, some with decorative stone walls and picket fences in front, appeared to wrap the village with a fringe. A stone dock used for larger vessels jutted out into the sea. The geography of the three harbors-White Sound, New Plymouth, and Black Sound-resembled a turtle.
The ferry brought us to the New Plymouth dock, since this was the heart of the village. We knew that the island was only three miles long and one and a half mile wide, with a population of about four hundred people, of which ten percent were non-Bahamian: American, English, German, and Canadian. On our ferry ride, some of this population diversity was evident. This first trip was magical in every way and would continue to be magical through many years.
Curt was waiting at the dock and looked just like the picture that had captured our imagination. With a big smile, he escorted us to a small dockside restaurant for lunch. On entering, he addressed a motherly looking woman behind the counter.
"This is Mz. Vina Bethell. I call her Wiener Schnitzel. She's the best cook on the island."
We discovered that the locals had a speech pattern that pronounced a w like a v and dated back to the original British Loyalists. Historically, following the American Revolutionary War in 1784, Green Turtle Cay had been a land grant gifted by the British to loyal subjects. Many were plantation owners who were forced to leave the States, and they brought with them their African slaves. Green Turtle Cay still reflected this population diversity when we arrived, with about a fifty-fifty black to white ratio. The plantation owners had believed they could grow cotton in the Bahamas, but they found the coral islands unsuitable. Later in this day, I saw one sad cotton plant growing in the village. It stood as a symbol for the many generations that had passed. These first Abaco settlers had to look to the sea for their livelihood, through fishing, sponging, shipbuilding, and salvaging the contents of disabled ships that collided with the unmarked reefs off shore.
Curt was eager for us to see his home and to meet Marie. She was a match for Curt. Here was a woman of professional status who willingly lived in intellectual isolation on a small island while maintaining her publishing connections. She had revised her nutrition book throughout the years with a co-author. Royalties from the sale of her book, which was used as a learning tool in many nursing programs, provided them with an ongoing income-rare for this kind of book. She looked like a transplant from New York City: tall and slim with improved blond hair. Her face was seamed from the sun and from the inhospitality of her island life. I noticed during our visit that her face had a serious gaze that seemed to find some difficulty translating to a smile.
Curt proudly informed us that his American architect duplicated the house they had left behind in Long Island. Their house of native stone, with a matching courtyard swimming pool, was perched on an elevation overlooking the flats facing Treasure Cay. Even the elevation was a luxury in the Bahamas, since very few islands offer this. Throw in the schools of bonefish feeding below his deck, and you can imagine our reaction. The fish slapped their tails in the water in applause.
The excitement generated by seeing our first bonefish triggered the second most impulsive decision of our lives. We wanted a house there. (Our first most impulsive decision had been the decision to marry each other after our first date.) Since we were approaching our twenty-fifth anniversary, you can conclude that impulsiveness was not one of our intrinsic character traits.
My husband blurted out, "Is anything for sale here?"
Our professor replied, "I just happen to have the key to a home in the village on New Plymouth Harbor. The house is offered at a modest price. An American yachtsman purchased the property a year ago after a tragedy-he and his wife lost a child. They spent the year repairing the house and their psyches and have returned to the United States."
We agreed to look at the house. It was a five-minute walk to the village. A primitive coral roadbed led past the Batelco telephone station and the schoolhouse that overlooked the sea. Curt said, "Bible study is a big part of their curriculum. Miss Amy, the schoolteacher, has instructed several generations here."
As we passed the phone station, the elevation served up a view of the village below that was breathtaking. A large poinciana tree filled with red blooms decorated the front of a cottage on the right side of the roadbed halfway down a very steep hill. The road split into two forks at the lower level, giving us the choice to enter an area of clustered homes and shops. We could see the cemetery ahead of the fork on our left, and Curt directed us to proceed this way. The raised graves with concrete caps bore the names of the original settlers and their descendents, with the sea snuggled up to one side. Opposite the cemetery, a small, vintage concrete jail with minuscule barred windows stood as a reminder of the incarceration of criminals in the old days.
Everything in the village was to scale. The people were small. The clapboard houses were small and painted in shades of blue, yellow, pink, and white. Many dated back to the early 1800s, when the Loyalists settled there. Narrow alleyways connected to the streets. An occasional chain link fence and some new construction with stucco over concrete block jarred the Old World image. Even the post office was in one of the old conch homes. Its porch entrance had one wall with postings that invited our imagination to take flight. The entire village was surrounded by water.
Curt said, "Two related Lowe families own grocery stores right next to each other on the main street. And the Curry family have their shop on the other side of the village. Real nice people." We knew that on an island, groceries included more than food. We concluded that diplomacy would always have to be in our minds when shopping. Curt continued, "Shopping for groceries usually includes an exchange of island information. The owners are self-appointed public relations representatives."
Along our way, Curt pointed out interesting sights. At one point he said, "There's one of my patients." We looked around. There was not a person in sight. "The pig, you dummies, the pig." We looked in the direction he indicated, and there was his patient: a large, fat pig penned up at the side of a house. Being addressed as "dummies" surprised as, but we focused on the humor of the moment. "I'm practising veterinarian medicine as well as delivering babies and treating all other diseases of men, women, and children," Curt said.
This was a fisherman who had completely restructured his vocation for his avocation. Within an hour, we had looked at the village house, given him a purchase price and a binder for the owner, and departed on the ferry back to Treasure Cay. We didn't even have time to walk on the Green Turtle beaches. The bonefish clapping was enough to persuade us.
One week later, we were back to family and reality. I had just returned from grocery shopping and found my husband sitting by the phone with a faraway look in his eyes. I asked, "Did we get the house?"
Excerpted from Pursuit of Paradise by Georgene S. Dreishpoon Copyright © 2010 by Georgene S. Dreishpoon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Innocence and Romance: 1975....................21
Boating Allure: 1977....................32
Sharing Our Space/Gathering Knowledge: 1978....................34
Maturing to Island Life Acquaintances and Events: 1979....................43
In Pursuit of the Menu: 1980....................54
Don't Judge the Book by the Cover....................57
Island Challenges: 1981....................62
Forced to Face Some Realities: 1981....................68
Seeking Legal Help: March 1981....................72
The Mystery Man of Green Turtle Cay....................78
A Disturbing Message from Our Island: September 1981....................89
Auntie Lu and the Haitians: March 5, 1982....................94
Forget Boating at Night....................96
Paradise Compromised: January 2, 1983....................99
My Birthday on GTC: January 4, 1983....................101
A Small World Story....................106
Zapped by the Island Current....................108
What Police Protection?....................110
Continued Apprehension: Wednesday, January 24, 1984....................114
Insurance with a Story: January 26, 1984....................117
The Sign of the Finger....................120
Mixed Emotions: February 1984....................123
Paradise? What Was Happening? January 24, 1985....................128
Intruding Haitians on Green Turtle Cay: February 15, 1985....................129
The Story of Little Lewis: March 1985....................132
The Fateful Picnic: 1985....................134
The House Is Sold: 1987....................138
Rental Seduction: February 1988....................140
Panic for Friends: A Political Agenda: February 22, 1989....................156
Life Goes On: March 17, 1990....................166
Island People Stories: 1991/1992....................168
Continuing Revelations: 1993-1997....................181
Sobering News: October 1997....................197
No Paradise in Paradise: April 22-30, 1998....................200
About the Author....................207
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In her memoir of life in the Bahamas, Georgene Dreishpoon takes the reader through a colorful cast of local characters and rich stories, as she and her fisherman/doctor husband live the dream of life in "paradise", on a tiny island in the Bahamas. (Picture Peter Mayle going tropical, and you begin to get the picture). Like the best travel books, there's also an interesting social commentary that emerges, as island life evolves in the modern world. It was fascinating to learn how outside influences began to seep into the local culture. So, if you're looking for an island family retreat, or you're ready to escape the frozen tundra forever, and you want see what it's really like to live in the islands, this book is worth checking out. Be careful if you start reading it on a snowy day though, you just might end up on a Bahamas beach before you know it...