Point of View: The Gringo Who Loved Spanish

Things did not begin well

   As a cold rain slants down (and as the grass and mosses green before my eyes), it is pleasant to think of Cayo Levantado, an islet off the Dominican Republic to which we repaired recently to divest ourselves, however temporarily, of any untoward thoughts, or of any thoughts whatsoever, frankly.
    Things did not begin well: Our room, which was to have had “a garden view,” according to the Web site, gave out onto a macadamed back lot, which, although we were at a palatial resort hotel, seemed no different from what you might gaze upon were you at Motel 6.
    Yet, before I could say, “We could just as easily have taken pills,” Mary and I were, thanks to Ramon Santos, the front desk manager (que Dios le bendiga) whisked away to villa number 6, whose broad veranda faced the Caribbean.
    “Mi mujer esta feliz, y por lo tanto estoy feliz,” I said to Ramon, who replied, with a smile, “Happy wife, happy life.”
    To see Mary happy was a boon inasmuch as the call of duty lately has been insistent and persistent. As for me, I’m deaf; that’s my excuse, one that was all the more available to me down there inasmuch as one of my new hearing aids all of a sudden gave up the ghost and the other almost drowned, its forgetful owner having dived with it in place into the bathtub-warm turquoise water. Mary revived it with a hair dryer, I’m happy to say, which enabled me to continue with my Spanish lessons, one of the Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado’s chief recommendations, to my mind.
    My professor, Estephan Cordero Salome, who was, above all, patient, said he could have me fine-tuned linguistically in a month. When I told him I probably never would retire, America being an expensive country and my job much to my liking, even at this late date, he offered to continue our dialogue through the Internet, which I plan to do. With gusto we sang “La Bamba” and “Alla en el Rancho Grande” together, songs I last sang with Eduardo Ponce de Leon, a native of Uruguay, as we drove along in a Jeep on Okinawa almost 50 years ago.
    In the tradition of “The Man Who Loved Dickens” — less sinister though no less obsessed — I reveled in the fact that I had among the employees a captive audience that was not only easy-going but willing — tips or no — to put up with “The Gringo Who Loved Spanish.”
    The novel I brought along to read, along with Helen Vendler’s “Poets Thinking,” was Santayana’s “The Last Puritan,” a rather strange book to take to such a hedonistic place, you might think, and, indeed, you’d be right inasmuch as the young brainy, athletic hero, Oliver Alden, was unlucky in love. That fed into a theory that had been taking shape in my mind — Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman having also figured into it — to wit, that, sadly, genius and a happy love life often were uncoupled. Was I bragging or complaining?
    Bragging, I supposed, for there was nothing to complain about on Cayo Levantado.