When I recently requested the book Cruise Confidential for reviewing, I also ended up with a second book in the package. The title was enough to suck me in right away... A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it's Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen by Gary Buslik. Ideally I would have waited to read this until our next cruise to the Southern Caribbean in March. But I couldn't wait that long. Rotten is a strange mix of travel stories leaving you with a question... what really happened, what's true, what's fantasy, and how do I sign up for a job like this? If you can imagine Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry as a comedy travel writer, you start to come close to Buslik's style. But any way you look at it, it was a pretty funny read with some poignant moments mixed in.
The Time I Accidentally Urinated on Idi Amin; My Military-Industrial Complex; NASDAQ 5000; El Max; The Power of MasterCard; The Night Ramon Popular Stopped Being a Commie; Papa's Ghost; A Bug in My Eye; Weed Killer; My Secret Cigars; My Date with Princess Di; Flow; The Art of Indifference in an Uncivil Age; Why Chicken Rectums Are More Relevant than You Think; Black Power; Sometimes It's the Other Way Around; Where Satan Works; Acknowledgments
Buslik is a travel writer who spends a lot of time in the Caribbean for his stories. He also sees himself as a comedy writer, and the two talents combine for some crazy adventures that are stretched to the edge of credibility. For instance, the Amin story takes place at a restaurant where he and his wife have gone to try and enjoy a night out. He steps out to smoke a cigar, and comes back in to a somewhat different mood pervading the entire place. Everyone seems rather frightened and subdued, although the music is still cranking away. He decides to go to the bathroom to get a little relief, only to find that he's standing side by side with the former dictator of Uganda. His second and third take cause him to turn slightly and, you guessed it, dribble a bit on Idi. Not a move to guarantee a long and peaceful life. From there, the story gets REALLY bizarre, with Idi coming out and asking his wife to dance. This is followed up by Amin finding them at their hotel, and pretty much becoming a stalker. Somewhere in there I think reality crosses over to fantasy, but it still makes for a funny read.
But not all the pieces are along that vein. One of his trips to Cuba has him searching for the ghost of Hemingway. He's not successful in finding anything that appears to be the spirit of Papa, but he does meet the old man who was his best friend down there. Now old and confined to a wheelchair, the guy has almost no life except to be rolled out for occasional pictures with tourists. Buslik meets him and wonders why the old man continues to hang on tight to life, when so little of it appears to be worth anything. But in a brief moment of clarity, the old man looks at Buslik, mistakenly thinks he's "Ernesto" come back like he said he would, and is rolled off with a smile on his face, something that rarely happens. The old man dies within the next couple of days, and Buslik contemplates what that case of mistaken identity might have meant to a man who had nothing left in his life. Very touching...
If you have followed Buslik's work, you may have seen a few of these stories as articles in various travel magazines over the last 10 years. The anthology nature of this book explains why many of the stories seem to have little to no bearing on each other. But if you're in the mood for an offbeat look at the islands, this is a nice way to go. Grab an umbrella drink, relax, and enjoy.