I have had the good fortune to travel all over the world—for both business and pleasure, not that those are mutually exclusive. This blog is about my unique experiences around the globe. It is not intended as a paean to the wonders of the locales themselves, as there already exist volumes that more than do justice to the magnificence of virtually every corner of this earth.  Here, I simply recount small, personal moments of surprise, embarrassment, stupidity, excitement, fear, heroics, and other stuff like that.

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Grand Cayman Island…January 1982. A friend had offered the use of his two-bedroom beachfront condo on the island’s famously beautiful Seven Mile Beach. My wife and I arrived on a Saturday afternoon to 85 degrees of perfect sunshine, having left Baltimore that morning to 2 degrees of brutal winter. Another couple was to join us midweek, but that plan would be scuttled on Tuesday by the horrific crash of an Air Florida jet into the freezing Potomac, immediately after taking off from Washington’s National Airport in a blinding snowstorm. But this is not about the beach or the crash. It is about what happened in the restaurant.

On Sunday, perhaps owing to too much sun, my wife was not feeling up to dinner, preferring to rest in the cottage and send me off to the restaurant by myself. I was shown to a small table on the side and immediately noticed a large table ahead and to my right. There were about a half dozen couples seated six across, with a single individual seated at the head. My immediate reaction was a flashback to a scene from The French Connection, one of my all-time favorite movies. In that scene, Popeye Doyle and his partner, Cloudy, are in a Manhattan nightclub, observing a small-time hood, named Sal Boca, throwing money around like there was no tomorrow as he entertains a bunch of aging, cigar-chomping goodfellas and their well-endowed nieces. Popeye turns to Cloudy and says, “That table is definitely wrong!”

My thoughts exactly, as I observed the table before me! Old guys, young girls, and a master of ceremonies-type seated up top. Clearly, this was a tax-haven boondoggle to which the old guys’ wives were not invited and the emcee was there to…what? Pay the tab? Babysit? Bail out anybody who crossed the line, assuming there even was a line to cross in the Caymans in those days?

As I pondered his role, I suddenly realized that I knew him. The Sal Boca-like character at the head of the table was my college roommate, known to me then and always as “T.D.” short for teardrop in homage to his body shape. I was suddenly conflicted.

Do I acknowledge him, or slide quietly out the door? What if this is some sort of Dante’s Inferno swingers weekend where anonymity reigns supreme? Maybe old T.D. had gone to the dark side and really turned Sal Boca on me.  Maybe he’d be embarrassed that he was the only one at the table without a niece. It had been at least seven years since we’d seen each other. A lot had happened to me in that time. Who knew how his life had evolved?

Before I could act, he got up and started my way; our eyes finally met. “Big Boy,” he exclaimed. (We all had college nicknames that we’d never shake.) “What the…”

“Yeah, my sentiments entirely, T.D.”

He sat for a few minutes so we could each explain what we were doing there. Turns out, his goodfellas were, indeed, dealers…of cars, not drugs…enjoying unloading a few fistfuls of their tax-havened dollars on a good life weekend. “They’re my clients,” he said. “I’m here to protect them from themselves.”

Wow, I thought. T.D.—the king of the college sucker punch; the enabler, if not instigator, of much of the college mayhem I experienced; my fellow marauder through the halls of NYU sororities on our tequila-fueled lost weekends in Greenwich Village—that T.D. was now the house father to a bunch of car dealers on a wild Caribbean ride.  I guess we all do grow up, dammit!

As T.D. and I said our goodbyes that night, I couldn’t help missing those days of our collegiate mayhem…of the special time that it was, back when I was “Cloudy” to his “Popeye.”


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