Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Was I Actually There? (Aitutaki) pt. 2

It's about an hour's hop from the 'main island' of Rarotonga, where the international airport is located, to Aitutaki, pronounced 'Ah -too -taki' although locals seem to say 'Ah -too -tucky' as in 'Tucky Buzzard'. Even in the olden days this tiny speck in the middle of the vastness of the Pacific (pop. 2,000) somehow merited its own postage stamps. There was one pictured in the used Harris stamp catalogue (Aitutaki -comes after Aden Protectorate in the British Empire section) that my Uncle Eddie Ostach gave me when I was about 7 years old. Then I could have never in a million years imagined that one day I'd be living a block away from the Ostach's old home on Jewel Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. How many years did I spend obsessing on these little rectangles of paper and the far away places they represented? Just ask photographer Anders Goldfarb (www.andersgoldfarb.com) Hopefully, I'll have a link right here someday to the exciting tales of our pre-adolescent adventures in philately (wouldn't it be great if the 'link' could be so direct I wouldn't have to bother writing anything?).

The old Aitutaki stamp pictured a native chieftain striking a typically proud pose under a palm tree while sporting some outlandish mask or headdress (okay, I can't remember which) of the sort we grew up seeing extras wearing in jungle and south-sea island B-movies like 'Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla' (USA, 1952). Starring Lewis and Martin look-a-likes 'Duke' Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo (recently deceased, this August 17, 2009) -look for future musings on Petrillo, my teenage years in the cultural Dark Ages and the birth of The Fleshtones). I hadn't seen the film since the early 70's and dismissed it as a turkey -until our bassist Ken Fox urged me to take another look. Once again The Canadian Fleshtone judged wisely, 'The Brooklyn Gorilla' is far more entertaining than anything the real Lewis & Martin ever released -and it does contain Duke Mitchell's immortal come-on to a south-sea beauty: "It's hard to believe that's the same moon shining tonight over The Bronx, Brooklyn and Coney Island." Try that line while marveling at the star splashed Cook Island night sky.

At the tiny airport greeted with songs ('string band'), flowered leis, and a short drive (all drives are short here) to Pacific Resorts Aitutaki, the island's most stylish hotel. Along the way we passed through villages that straggled along the road very much like 'out island' settlements in The Bahamas, except for the tombs in people's front yards. Land in The Cooks is ancestral and despite migration, the families that pray together, stay together -forever.