January 26, 2010
The Lookout Bar
If you pass by when it’s closed, you’d think it was abandoned – its windows boarded up, a few home-made stools and tables strewn haphazardly outside. But in the evening, those window boards lift up and hook to the rafters, revealing a bar with a fridge, cooler, and stove in a space the size of a walk-in closet. Ask for a cold Carib or a non-alcoholic Malta and perch on one of the
When the sun drops behind the hill, the bar becomes a little pool of light and laughter in the darkness, as other patrons gather and the smell of frying chicken kicks in. One Friday, while I was still in Toronto and Charlene knew Steve was arriving with a couple other friends, she made something special: a stew from seacat, octopus, which Stevie had brought in from his day at sea with his partner, Dwight. But tonight, another family member serves wings and beer while Blossom, Charlene’s four-month-old daughter, naps on her shoulder.
I used to think these little island rum shops were closed circles. Walking in, I felt like an uninvited guest intruding on a private party. But if you screw up the courage to do it once, I discovered, then you’re no longer a stranger. You may even be considered a regular, in fact.
I learned this when we stumbled into Bill Paterson’s rum shop in Hillsborough, the main town on Carriacou, Grenada’s sister island, which has only one gas station to serve its 5,000 residents – but at least 100 rum shops. Bill is also a justice of the peace, and he’s often found working two phones and conducting business in the rum shop’s mostly open-air back room overlooking the sea, which makes it even more disconcerting for a stranger to wander in and take a seat. But Bill introduced himself on our first visit, remembered us on our second, and bought us a drink on our third. “You are friends and good customers,” he said, waving away our protest. When we reciprocated and bought him a drink on a subsequent visit, he had to excuse himself from our table midway through and move (carrying his beer) to the large central table that serves as his “office.” An island miscreant had arrived accompanied by his bail-bearing mother and a uniformed police officer, and Bill had to slip into his JP role and sign the bail papers.
Business quickly dispensed with, he rejoined us at our table, and the conversation picked up right where it had left off.
Even when it’s not on the Welcome Road, a rum shop can be welcoming.Back to top
Sign up to be notified by email when I post a new blog
December 28, 2009
Mountains and mud, cocoa and callaloo: A hike that had it all