Crying in the Caribbean
by Marvin Payne
Editor’s Note: Come on an 8-day Caribbean Cruise with Marvin Payne next spring with prices starting at $399. Come here to learn more.
Ten years ago I was cast in a film that took me to a little island in the Caribbean, St. Maartens. The cool t-shirt that I got there has long since worn out, but just last month I found an even cooler St. Maartens sweatshirt at Deseret Industries, so I can still appear, to a degree, well and hiply traveled and smarty-pants.
Only half of St. Maartens is called St. Maartens. The other half is called St. Martins (rhymes with “St. Maartens”). This is because one half is Dutch (actually a part of Holland even, I think) and the other half is French. What makes this unusual is that this island is one of the few items on the globe where the French name for it is shorter than the other name for it. Remember (and this should be easy in this season of Halloween), “Boo” in French is “Beiux!” (Tell me, would you be scared by a ghost going “Beiux” at you? “Scared” is not precisely the word.)
Another kind of interesting thing about the island is that from way back in pirate days there is a law there that no private landowner can restrict access to the shoreline in any way. This means that you can stay in a cheap and dusty little room on the Dutch side, take a taxi over to the French side, and go prancing through the lobby of a sixteen-star hotel over there and out the back doors (invariably, French doors, or, as they say, “diourxs”) to the kind of posh beach that would be thoroughly verboten on any other island, particularly if it were to be an island with a German side.
Now here’s the weird and wonderful part. The film was to promote a survival course for troubled teens, the kind that will make them Republicans, if they aren’t killed in the process. These survival programs are customarily conducted in Southern Utah or the Sahara. But this one was conducted in () The Virgin Islands! Actually, it’s not as silly as it sounds. The kids have to sail a smallish yaught, no, yaht, no, yawt, um, sailboat from island to island. They have to work as a team and learn to respond to authority. Or capsize. If they succeed, they are met on the final beach by their grateful (and now, penniless) parents, who embrace their transformed offsprings with many tears. The awesome youth are shedding tears freely as well, owing to the fact that they are being hugged hard right on their sunburns. (Sunburn had been encouraged early on by the program directors to deter inappropriate displays of affection between inmates, er, crewboys-and-girls.)
We played the parents–for the crying on the beach part and for extensive seemingly spontaneous interviews about the miraculous change we’d witnessed in our wayward children.
We flew out of Salt Lake International on the morning of the biggest blizzard since the handcart mishap of 1856 (while we were in the Caribbean, the big TV news story was the record depth of snow in Utah). We landed late at night and were told to meet in the lobby at 5:00 AM. We steeled ourselves for three days of hard work, and by 11:00 AM we were on the beach, shooting and crying. At about 11:30 AM the Assistant Director shouted, “Okay, that’s a wrap.” We looked at each other. “Wait, we’ve got fabricated tears galore in us, ready to burst out!” What we hadn’t taken into account was that the crew (boat and film) had been on the water for two weeks and couldn’t stomach taking even one more shot. Somehow the whir of cameras and the groan of seasickness had become indelibly associated in their minds. They could fake the extensive seemingly spontaneous interviews about miraculous changes back in Utah next month.
So. Three more days of no work and pretty hefty per diem in the Caribbean. Somehow we couldn’t find it in ourselves to complain. Nobody called their agent. We swam, bought cool (but not particularly durable) t-shirts, got to know the astoundingly warm islanders, and ate. A lot.
I need to divert for a moment to a journal entry from that trip. Jan Felt is a fine actress and good friend. You’ve seen her in church films and the occasional network and theatrical movie. Heck of an actress. She played Sariah the Matriarch of Mighty Nations in “The Book Of Mormon Movie,” but didn’t say hardly anything, because the book was written almost entirely by, well, patriarchs. She is possessed, as is important to note for reasons that will shortly become apparent, of that holy prerequisite of film actress-hood: she is slender as a willow wand. On to the journal entry:
10 January 1993
“Ask me if this is not a walking, breathing Relief Society lesson: Running through the Salt Lake airport toward our boarded and waiting plane, I carried Jan’s carry-on bag and a big plastic shopping sack. (She’d driven me through the churning snow that morning.) When we got to our seats, she inventoried the contents: several magazines, including, I think, two Ensigns, and a Whole Bunch Of Food, with granola, triscuits, cream cheese, a can of mandarin orange bits, a big block of cheddar, a can of tuna, a can of salmon, and an assortment of crackers. This was supplemented by saved seconds on airline favors. The first four items she and I consumed for breakfast on my balcony yesterday. The French-side tourists among us took care of the tuna, cheddar, crackers, and airline stuff today, and we’ll polish off the salmon tonight. She doesn’t want to take any of it home, which thinking I kind of admire.”
(Where was Jan in 1856, I’d like to know?)
“The really odd thing is, every time we all sat down at some restaurant with our generous per diem, she would say ‘Gee, I’m really not hungry at all.’ Then she would eat a big meal, after which we would all send our plates by (this might be sixteen people), from which she would construct marvelously creative (and enormous) salads and casseroles and then consume them utterly.”
(Hmm… Maybe it’s better Jan wasn’t with the handcarts, after all.)
End of diversion.
Cruisin’ the Caribbean
Looking out from the hotel balcony, you saw the wide main beach of the island. But nobody swimming. This is because the cruise ships anchor out beyond that beach, and make the water less nice to swim in. Rashes ensue. Every day a ship or two would appear out there and be gone in the morning. Hardly anybody stays at St. Maarten for more than a few hours, which is a pity. Unless you’re an idle per-diemed actor there for three days, then you like it when the ships load up and steam out to sea, like floating cities of light. It’s quiet again. I’ll admit we made fun of the cruisers a little.
Which confession has brought me to an awkward moment. I’m going on a cruise. Caribbean. Never been on one before. I’m about to make the ocean less nice to swim in, and noisy up the streets of those little sleepy towns. But I won’t mind. It’s a sacrifice one has to make for the privilege of cruising with YOU! No kidding, this is really strange, but I’ve become “tour bait.” Meridian Magazine is visionary. Sometimes “visionary” equates with “a little bit crazy” (ask the contemporary biographers of Joseph Smith). I said, “Maurine,” (Maurine is the creator of this magazine, editor of everything you can read here, which is why all my columns turn out sounding so staid and scholarly, and, with Al Gore, is rumored to have invented The Internet) “are you sure
this is a good idea?”
“Yes, Marvin, it’s a good idea.”
“But I don’t know the first thing about whales, or pirates, or Voodoo, or whatever else we’re going out there to see!”
“Marvin, it’s a good idea.”
“Maurine, I’m really reluctant to…”
“Marvin, we’re paying for your ticket.”
“Should I bring my banjo?”
So we’re off! I can smell the bottle of champagne bursting on the bow!
I can feel the breath of the mizzen in the foc’sle! I can hear the crunch of whole armadas of VHS copies of “The Titanic” being nervously thrust into dumpsters across Mormondom (these would be “CleanFlicks” copies).
And I’ll see YOU there! I’ll take you aloft with “The Planemaker”! I’ll guide you along the Mormon Trail as Scout John Brown in “Trailsong”! I’ll be “J. Golden!”! (The first exclamation point is part of the title–I know it looks funny.) I’ll sing you all my hits! (This will be one of the shorter evenings, unless I include the ones I made famous as Boo Dog–or Beiux Dog, if you will.) I’ll conduct workshops in French Spelling! Seminars in The Treatment of Beach Rashes! Share all Five of my Journal Writing Tips! We’ll out-cuisine Jan Felt! I’ll go to the library and learn to identify whales, pirates, and Voodoos! Avast! Ahoy!
(Ahem. They’re not paying for your ticket.)
Check out Meridian Tours. Cross my heart. And a bottle of rum. Er, plum. Juice. Yo ho.
Learn about how to go cruising with Marvin here.
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)
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