Bestbird Page Seven:

Finishing what I wished for - ouch!

My second Belizean aside: (25 Feb 2000) I reported a casual description of my first lengthy encounter with the famous (infamous?) Jerry McDermott, but, I have not yet described him to my visitors. Most Belizeans, and not a few Texans, know more about Jerry (from here on, I'll leave out the "McDermott") than they want to know. So, this aside about him will be for the benefit of the other poor souls who have never had the pleasure, or other emotional reaction from knowing him. I don't hope to explain him fully, a job for Freud, Jung, or Adler, but only to say enough to help in understanding the context of the other times he is mentioned on this page. Jerry must have had an Irish ancestor who had much more intimate relations with the Blarney Stone than a mere kiss or two. In all his social dealings, he was charming company and had many entertaining anecdotes to tell with a judicious use of an occasional namedrop for added interest. The dichotomy of Jerry was, and I bet still is, that, in the management of the Paradise House Hotel and his many other ventures, he would take as much advantage and drive as hard a bargain as he could in his always lighthearted, but forceful, way. Yet, at other times, he would unexpectedly go out of his way to render a favor just when it was needed most. During my first dealings with him, he gave me a queasy feeling that he was something of a con man, who might tell a small lie even when the truth would serve him better. However, we had a common friend (meaning that he was a friend of us both, not that he was common in any other way) named "Fritz" Lane, but usually called just "Lane" on the island, and he had much more extensive dealings (including card dealings) with Jerry than I, including being Jerry's tenant at the Paradise. Lane assuaged that queasy feeling somewhat by telling me, when I asked him about Jerry's reputation for truth and veracity, that, "Jerry will always tell you the truth, but pay very close attention to what he says." Those who knew or know Jerry should know that, among his admirable qualities, lies his ability, above all things, to be a survivor. Knowing Jerry helped me a lot in getting my island projects done, and even more in improving my attitude towards people - an attitude which is not judgmental of people and their morals or views on life, but wants to know only, "Do I enjoy their company?" In other words, I learned to "nak me on ting". McDermott strikes back: (26 Mar 2000) Jerry once summed up Lane's Poker playing methods and abilities in one succinct comment. He said that Lane had a leather ass and no curiosity. You non-poker players should learn that Jerry's assessment was meant as very high praise.

A Lighter load of concrete: (24 Feb 2000) Jerry once diverted my attention from trying to figure him out by offering to give me some help in understanding the nature of Belizeans. His method was to relate one of his true, or nearly true, anecdotes. His tale spoke of having a few libations with an unnamed freight boat Captain in a Belize City bar. The Captain mentioned that he had to haul a load of cement to San Pedro that very night in order to get some badly needed money from a new hotel project owned by a gringo. Jerry knew that the Captain's boat was a lighter, a broad bottom sailboat maybe twenty feet in length, and thought it prudent to point out to the Captain that it was pretty stormy out, that the Captain had been guzzling his drinks with alacrity, that it was quite a distance to San Pedro, and that it would be no big thing if the gringo had to wait an extra day to get his cement - of course, that was more of an argument than an advisory because the Captain already knew all those things better than Jerry did. The captain shrugged. Jerry, wise by now to a Belizean characteristic of looking askance at those who meddle in another's business, also shrugged and, after one more round or two, went on to bed. About a month or two after that night, Jerry and the Captain chanced to meet again, this time at Fido's in San Pedro. At one point in their conversation, the Captain said, "Jerry, I just don't understand gringos." Then, he asked, "Can you explain gringos to me?" Jerry, not wishing to lend his considerable expertise in that regard until he had an inkling of what the ramifications would be, asked the Captain if he had anything in particular he was wondering about. The Captain said, "I'll give you an example. Do you remember that night in Belize City when I told you that I had to deliver those thirty bags of cement to that gringo? Well, on the way to San Pedro, the storm got worse, the boat swamped, and all my cargo went overboard. But we anchored the boat and, as soon as it got daylight, we dived and dived until we recovered all thirty bags of cement. Then we went on to San Pedro and put all thirty bags on the beach right in front of the new hotel. Jerry, I just don't understand gringos. Did you know that, after all the trouble I went through to get the cement to that gringo, he don't want to pay me?"

Plywood and mix-ups:

Moving to town, facing the music:

Rudon's passenger list:

A second lead's viewpoint:

We can do it, Mervino:

Lose a Bob, gain fresh air:

A pier but no bar:

Doors, locks, and Keys:

East Indian Rice: (08 Apr 2000) On one of my several Houston trips, maybe during the one when I ordered the brass locks and keys, Ab introduced me to Browne Rice, III, at a lunch organized by Ab, who had told me that "Brownie" (as one and all called him) was the member of a pioneer Houston family (a fact which I already knew), one of Ab's good friends, and a potential investor. Except for Ab and Harvey, Brownie is the only investor whom I will mention by name. This is because I want to tell a story in which his name plays a part, and because he was a lot of help during the building phase. At the lunch, I gave my investor pitch which always included an outline of the organizational deal and my vision of how the hotel would operate. All this discussion finally led to an agreement that Brownie and two of his friends (also well know to Ab) would go together to buy one share at a price of one and a third times the price being paid by the other purchasers of one share, and that the share would be held in Brownie's name only. He did pay for that share and may have bought another share later on - I don't remember for sure. The Brownie story add-on: (21 Apr 2000) As a result of my doddery, I can't remember the details about the when or why of this story, but recall very well the where and what. It occurred at a time when bad weather had nixed any telephonic communications between Belize City and the island, and had caused all activity at VH to cease. I clearly recall the more than inclement weather and that the event occurred while I was on a yacht which was safely docked at the Paradise. The yacht had an excellent radio, which even I could utilize, and, I guess, was owned by someone who was a friend of Ab or Brownie. That guess is made because, somehow, a radio message came and announced the impending arrival of Brownie and a friend of his, Lester Curry, at Belize International and that they needed to have arrangements made for transportation to the island and the Paradise. Ever mindful of my duty to extend courtesy to actual and potential investors, I undertook the task of advising the Paradise office (which also had a radio) about that impending arrival so that Tropic Air could be notified. Not wishing to brave the elements for the two hundred feet or so distance to the office, I used the radio to tell (name not critical and not used for reasons of tact) that: "Two new guests are checking in today, please tell Tropic that they will arrive on the TACA flight from New Orleans." She said, "Certainly, Mr. Key," and asked, "What are the names, please?" I couldn't miss the opportunity to say: "Tell Tropic that Browne Rice is coming with Les Curry." There was dead silence for a few seconds and then came a wailful, "Aw, Mr. Key, please don't play today." It took a while to straighten out the effects of my crudity.

Mo' money and a moon over Miami: (08 Apr 2000) At some point near the end of the construction period, a well-heeled older gentleman from Aspen, Colorado, who was well known to Ab and Brownie, also invested, maybe ("maybe" representing another OLDheimer's -sic- memory loss) in more than one share, and he may have been from Tahoe, California, not Aspen, Colorado. But, true to my promise, I'll not mention his name because it is not really important to this story. Besides that, he's dead now and I'm afraid of his ghost. So, with the addition of other invested money in the form of what I called "advancements" and the Aspen/Tahoe investor called "calls" - plus the payment by Susan and me of the money (out of most of the proceeds from the sale of our Houston home) for our two shares, and my not taking any salary for about eight months while Susan and the kids were in Houston living off the largesse of her mother - enough money was squeezed out to finish the hotel. The moon over Miami part:

A trip to Spanish Lookout and Guatemala:

By George, we did it: (28 Oct 2000)

Even though I can't do an Irish, or any other kind of jig, this leprechaun does give a good picture of the way I felt when the construction part of the job was finished. There was much frantic organizational work to do in order to get and then to accommodate paying visitors, but the main objective of the whole endeavor had been accomplished - Susan, although still in a cast, had recovered fairly well from the three wheeler catastrophe, and she and the kids would soon rejoin me in our quarters on a beach in a tropical paradise where I was boss of all I surveyed. I didn't know as much then as I do now about the claws of the tropics.

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