Dis Da Belize
About two weeks after I arrived in 1995 I complained to a friend about Belizeans' casual attitude toward time. 'Nothing ever starts on time,' I whined, gringo style.
'Richard,' I was told, 'dis da Belize. It is what it is. Live with it.'
An epiphany! A revelation! Truth revealed! I'm in a different country! Customs here don't match those I learned growing up in North America!
Over the years I've tried to make a few friends among the gringo community. So far I've accumulated two, and they don't live among other gringos. Generally I'm met with a condescending attitude; I'm not really fit company because I choose to live as a Belizean in Belize and not as a gringo.
While living in Consejo Village I was invited to have coffee with a couple living in Consejo Shores, a gringo community near the village. I was severely reprimanded by one of the other residents of the elite community. 'That's simply not done,' I was told. 'You live in the village. You are not welcome at the Shores. The person who invited you made a mistake.'
The reprimand was delivered in the presence of other media representatives and government officials, including members of Cabinet. A feeling of mild dislike for residents of gringo enclaves took a turn toward the bitter. So it was that 'stupidgringo' became one word in my mind.
My personal opinion is that the land where the North American enclaves have been planted should be nationalised. This is land that could be used by Belizeans. The shopping habits of the gringos have a negative effect on Belize' foreign exchange because too much imported food and other material is imported to satisfy the gringos' desire to live a North American lifestyle while enjoying cheap domestic labour and our climate. An alternative to nationalisation would be a serious increase in property tax on residential property owned by non Belizeans.
Some gringos do try to fit in, living in Belizean neighbourhoods surrounded by Blizean neighbours and taking part in community activities. The ones who isolate themselves from the rest of the country ought to go back to wherever they came from.
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'I don't have a tie.'
'I'll buy you a tie'
'I don't want a tie.'
'You can't go to the party without a tie.'
'Then I won't go to the party.'
'There will be people there you should meet. And they want to meet you.'
'I'll do a Faulkner and go home to write.'
'That's a myth and you know it.'
'To quote one of your New Age reporter friends, ''If it didn't happen that way, it should have''.'
'You need to get along better with these people. They can make you famous.'
'I'm famous now. My eight-year-old kid back in Mississippi brags about me to his friends.'
'And they can make you rich.'
'I'm rich enough already.'
'Nobody is rich enough already.'
'Depends how you look at it.'
'Let me get you a tie and a decent jacket. You can toss them after the party, but do this for me. You may not care, but my 15 percent means a lot to me.'
'Do the people who read my pieces know I don't have a tie?'
'The way you write, they probably think you do.'
'Maybe I should change the way I write.'
'And give me a heart attack? Please, Ricki. You don't understand how this town works.'
'I understand how this town works. A cabbie explained it to me my first day here. ''A writer, huh? If you wanna make it here, you gotta be seen at the right table at '21'. That's the secret.'' What I've seen so far, he was right.'
'That's not all there is to it.'
'Yes it is. Be seen chatting with Cerf at ''21''. Be at the same cocktail party as Capote. Have somebody start some gossip about you. That's all there is to it. But okay. I'll play. One tie, cheap. Make the jacket something I can wear places besides a New York cocktail party.'
'And Allen, this is a one-shot deal. Set it up so after this I meet these people in offices, or like, by accident, in a bar somewhere. That shouldn't be hard for you.'
'I'll bring the tie and jacket tomorrow.'
The agent left, the writer filled a shot glass with Bushmill's, sipped, and sat down at a Remington Travel Writer. He rolled in a sheet of paper and began to type.
'I don't have a tie', said the writer.
'I'll buy you a tie', said the agent.