A night in Santo Domingo

sunrise

I’VE BEEN IN lots of brothels: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, Mexico. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Barcelona, Spain.*

But I’ve never purchased the principal product, just the secondary, alcohol. I came close once,  however. A booze-fueled, Caribbean night in Santo Domingo.

I related this story years ago on a former website, but it’s vanished. If you remember, be aware that some details may differ. It’s been a long time.

Some things are fun to repeat, and I’m a fun fellow.

It started one morning at the airport bar in New Orleans. My traveling companion was an old French friend from years earlier. We’d met in the Air Force in California.

(Trivia: Sitting two stools down from me at the airport bar was Kris Kristofferson, but I pretended not to notice him. I was cool like that.)

We continued drinking on the plane, and by the time we landed in Santo Domingo we were well-oiled. We rented a car and drove to a downtown hotel. As night fell, we hired a taxi driver to take us to the brothel zone, which he did.

(More trivia: Dominican hookers were the most beautiful I ever saw, far outstripping the international competition from my experience. Just so you know.)

We continued drinking. My French friend partook of the wares but I, as always, took a pass. Sex that way has never interested me. Going to brothels was a sociological experience and a very fascinating one. But the night wore on, and I drank more.

And, Lordy, they were lovely.

Around 3 a.m., the two of us walked out the front door to hunt another taxi. At my shoulder I noticed a cute working girl who’d tailed us. She wanted to come along. I said yes, so we three took a cab to a restaurant and ate.

After eating, we caught another cab to the hotel. Somewhere along the line, I had decided to abandon my hands-off approach. We entered the hotel lobby, the three of us, but the hotel’s security man stopped us. Not the girl, he said.

My friend headed up to the room, and my companion and I walked back outside. Habitual drinkers, which I was at the time, can reach a state in which they’re quite ambulatory, steady even, but completely plowed at the same time. I was there.

We got into the rental car, and she gave me directions to “a place I know.” It turned out to be an old, two-story, wooden hotel on the beach highway. It’s about 4 a.m.

Things get foggy now. I recall entering the hotel. The girl was walking just ahead of me up a broad stairway. Behind me was a man, a hotel employee, I suppose. I suddenly got wary of the situation, suspecting I was going to be robbed or worse.

I changed my mind.

As we entered the room, I told the girl I had left something in the car and that I’d be right back. I turned on my heel, headed out the door, bounced down the stairs and leaped into the car. But she was right behind me. She didn’t want me to leave her there.

Okay, I said. Jump in. But she had left her shoes in the room upstairs. Go get them, I said. But you’ll leave, she replied, accurately. This exchange continued for a few rounds till I started to drive off. She ran around and jumped into the car without her shoes.

We pulled out onto the moonlit highway while she yelled, My shoes! My shoes! I braked and pulled over, opened my door, walked around to the other side, opened her door and attempted to pull her out. She grabbed the steering wheel. I could not extract her painlessly, so I gave up, returned to the other side and continued down the highway.

Twenty or so minutes later, we entered a downtown plaza. There was a parked police car, and two cops stood on the sidewalk. The girl stuck her head out the window and began yelling which, of course, caught the officers’ attention.

Deciding not to make a run for it, I just pulled over.

The girl got out and spoke to the police. We ended up driving back to the hotel. The girl and I led the way, and the police car followed. When we arrived at the hotel, she walked upstairs to retrieve her shoes while I and the smiling cops waited.

She returned wearing her shoes and told me to give the police some money, which I did, not wanting trouble and thinking myself lucky so far. The officers drove off, and I did too, with my companion. I offered to take her home, an idea she liked.

Ever the gentleman. It was the least I could do.

She lived in a low-rent area, of course. As we pulled up to her humble home, she asked, still hoping for some cash, if I’d like to come in. I said no, and asked how old she was. After so many years, I forget what she told me, but it was 16 or so.

As I headed alone back to the hotel, the sun was rising.

And I remain to this day a whorehouse virgin.

* * * *

* This was unintentional. My second wife and I entered, sat at the bar and ordered drinks before it became clear where we were. We did finish the drinks.

(A Christmas Eve brothel in San Juan. Plus another romance on the road, also a true story.)

The nearby train

rail

I THINK IT was Columbus. It surely was not Flatonia because, as I recall (it’s been quite a spell), that’s where the good barbecue joint was located just off Interstate 10 about midway between Houston and San Antonio.

Flatonia, that is.*

No, it likely was Columbus where my second ex-wife and I decided to spend a night in a hotel, just a fun way to get out of Houston, deep into the sticks, so to speak. We used to head out on weekends now and then, near and far, to spend nights in hotels just for the heck of it, a change of scene.

It was a train that etched that night into my memory so firmly even though it’s been about 25 years now. That wife’s long gone, and so is Texas, out of my life, but not trains.

That night in Columbus, we chose a quaint little wooden, two-story inn that had been a train-stop hotel way back, a place for travelers who arrived by rail in Columbus to easily step from the train almost right into the hotel lobby. But passenger service to Columbus went the way of cavalry charges and vanished.

The hotel went out of business and stayed that way a long time. Then some folks, probably city slickers dreaming of running a small hotel in rural Texas, answered an advertisement one day and, presto, the hotel was reborn, just as quaint as ever, but on purpose this go-around.

Some time after that, we showed up and checked in. The hotel was all decked out in old-timey stuff, real cute, you know, and we liked it. That night we hit the sack around 10 or so, as usual.

The train arrived a couple of hours later. The tracks remained directly beside the hotel, and I mean directly. It was a freight train, and it did not continue through, which would not have been so bad. No, it parked right outside our second-story window. And it sat … and sat … and sat … with the motor running.

Didn’t get much sleep that night. On leaving the next day, I understood why we were the only hotel guests. Who would return after a night with your bedside lamp spitting distance from a rumbling locomotive?

I’m sure the new owners, possibly Yankees from New York trying to get away from it all, regretted their decision, likely losing their shirts, but all we lost was one decent night of sleep.

* * * *

Flash forward a quarter century. I live pretty close to a railroad track, and it’s a busier track than the one in Columbus, Texas, by far. But it’s not just outside our window. It’s like a block and a half away.

Our property extends from one street out front to another street out back, which is to say it’s a full block deep, and the house sits against the back street, not the front. Crossing that front street, you’ll see houses, and it’s directly behind those houses where the railroad runs.

We hear the trains, which pass at all hours of the night and day, real well. I don’t know how the people who live across the street, with the trains passing just behind them, put up with it.

The trains pass in a number of styles, depending on the mood of the engineer. The style matters more at 2 a.m. than at 4 p.m. Sometimes they pass quietly. Well, as quietly as a train can pass. Just the bump-bump-bump of the wheels, nothing more. Or it can be full-tilt boogy with horn blaring and bell clanging.

We did not notice the railroad when we bought the property, and we likely would have purchased elsewhere had we been aware. But guess what? After a couple of weeks back in 2003, we ceased to be rattled by the passing trains, even in the dead middle of the night.

Not only that. We like it now. From the upstairs terraza, we see the top portions of passing trains clearly, and it lends a sort of vagabond air to the neighborhood.

If you walk the 1.5 blocks from the Hacienda to the neighborhood plaza and look left you will see the scene in the photo above. The train tracks bisect our funky neighborhood, and we live on the right side of the tracks because where we live is, by definition, not the wrong side of the tracks.

* * * *

* The barbecue joint was directly next to a gas station. Once I used the john in that gas station and found it so unkempt and repulsive that I told the station manager than I’d seen nicer johns in Mexican whorehouses. She didn’t take kindly to my accurate comparison.

(Tomorrow: About milk. Stay tuned.)