Monday, June 15, 2009

Queen Kelly

I was hoping to post my first Saba-mentary (Docu-Saba?  Docious-alli-expi?) from my Flip Video camera with this post, but I’m afraid it will have to wait.  I haven’t quite developed the hand-held self-portrait technique that I’m after.  The framing was all out of whack.  I assembled a little video of our trip to the beach yesterday but it wasn’t up to my exacting standards so I’m gonna bag it.  

(The title of this entry?  You know how I love my obscure movie references:  “Queen Kelly” was an Erich von Stroheim silent epic for Gloria Swanson that went way over-budget and was finally killed by financier Joe Kennedy.  It’s the movie Swanson and Bill Holden watch together in “Sunset Boulevard”.  “Rattling the Saba” is educational as well as entertaining.  But I digress…)


I’ve mentioned earlier that there is no beach on Saba because the island is just a big rock that juts out of the ocean.  The locals know if the first question asked by a visitor is, “where’s the beach?” that visitor will not be very happy on Saba.


But I wasn’t being completely accurate.  Once in a while there is a beach.  Mostly it’s just the ocean crashing against a vertiginous and threatening wall of boulders, gravel and dirt that is scarred by the weather and wind.  A wall that occasionally tosses an errant slab of rock to the depths below.  The beach itself is small and the sand is gray and sometimes just a few yards deep and the road there is like the last stretch of Spiderman the Ride but a beach there is.  Sometimes.  When the tide cooperates.  Right now it’s cooperating so Patrick, Sophie and I decided to go. 


We stopped in "The City" for a bite at the Saba Snack Bar and then proceeded down The Road to The Bottom …and Beyond!  The Road continues past The Bottom to the beach (beach area, I guess.  When there’s no beach it just goes nowhere.)  It’s really hard to describe how steep and switch-back-y this road is.  I shot some footage of the trip back up but… y’know…framing and all. 


The road simply ends at the beach.  You park your car and climb over some boulders to get to the sandy part.  We arrived at 1:30 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the place was packed.  There must have been, oh, I don’t know… one, maybe two other people?  It was  difficult to get an accurate count.  Yup, Sunday afternoon and a beach (that isn’t even always there) was empty.  I guess you just don’t think “beach” when you think “Saba.” 


We dropped our stuff and headed into the water for a quick snorkel.  Right offshore is an underwater cluster of boulders and in those boulders is a nice variety of fish and, sometimes, more exotic things.  Last year we saw a sea turtle in this spot but he was AWOL this time around.  Yesterday was just an average snorkeling day, which meant, of course, we saw a beautiful array of fishes large and small, brightly colored and with more subdued markings, in schools and swimming solo, timid and nonchalant.  Imagine you are that little plastic diver in the tank at the Chinese restaurant and that’s what the experience is like.


Back on the sand we all SPF’d-up and lay back for a bit of sun.  Hot sun.  Bright sun.  I plugged in my iPod and was very quickly asleep.


I awoke to discover friends of Pat and Sophie had shown up with some chilled watermelon (which tasted extra good in the hot sun) as well as some other folks who had decided to take advantage of the Amazing Disappearing Beach.  So the head count had increased to about ten.  Sophie said, “You missed a boulder falling out of the cliff.”  Fortunately it had also missed me. 


Among the newcomers was one guy who I remembered from my last visit and who, unlike the turtle, showed his face again this time.  He’s a wiry fellow in a black Speedo who does some kind of exercise/gymnastics/yoga routine on the beach for his own—and others’—enjoyment.  He also parks his truck (he delivers truckloads of water here on Saba.  More about that in the future…) at the end of the road and blasts his music. 


[Speaking of truck drivers on Saba:  the garbage pickup guys, who drive a standard-but-itty bitty garbage truck went on strike a while ago when the authorities decided that no, it was not OK that they drink all day whilst picking up the trash.  After 48 hours of the job action a compromise was reached:  the pair would take turns driving so the other one would be free to down his Caribe beers.  Hey, it’s a system and it works.]


After the sun, the watermelon, the fishes and the physical culture demonstration we were all ready to head home.  We shook the sand from our towels and Patrick drove us up the ridiculous hill, never leaving first gear the entire trip back up to The Bottom.  “Up to the bottom.”  Crazy.


Of course we didn’t quite make it home because when we got back to Windwardside another friend invited us for beers on his front porch.  Finally, I hitched a ride back up the hill to El Momo and, after a shower, fixed myself a bowl of corn flakes and sat down to edit my cinematic epic.  Oops. 

“Queen Kelly,”… “The Day the Clown Cried”… and now, “Saba Beach.”  Lost masterpieces all. 

At least I can offer some stills from the movie. 



  1. Au contraire mon frere, Rattling the Saba is entertaining as well as educational. Who knew what a hip roof is? You're gonna regret pulling a Jack Warner on your Saba-mentary, y'know. Perhaps someday (if we're lucky)they'll do a reconstruction with these stills and the soundtrack which shall be discovered on your i-pod.

    By the way, that bottom photo has me puzzled. Are you applying sunblock or cleaning yourself off after your Dutch lesson?

  2. Wow. I think I'd have loved to see the Saba-mentary anyhow. And...I'm amused that the island has its own Water Guy. My Water Guy is the hottest man in my life atthe moment. It doesn't hurt that he's kind of a flirt, too.

    But enough about my little wet crush...I want to see this Saba-mentary! Here's to a second take!

  3. I want to see the Saba-mentary too! Let's have a retake soon. Your Sunday at the beach sounds delightful. Wish we were there.

  4. That final photo seems like it's from some "other" movie. I love the off-kilter aspect of the second photo-still. Exacting standards are all well and good, but entertainment value is a subjective thing. Bring on the Saba-docious-alli-expi!