Cumbia, Cumbia

Sunburn from snorkeling in Cartagena, Columbia mid 80s. Photo by Peggi
Sunburn from snorkeling in Cartagena, Columbia mid 80s. Photo by Peggi

Well before the 60 Minutes piece on the tour boat operater who took a group of scuba divers out to a coral reef off Cozumel and came back to shore while one of the divers was still down, Peggi and I spent a week in Cartagena.

When my parents moved my mom threatened to throw my shoebox of baseball cards away if I didn’t pick them up. I took them home and pawed through them one last time. My collection ranged from ’58 to ’63 and by that time I was flush with paper route money and simultaneously losing interest in baseball. I had doubles and triples of the 1963 Topps baseball cards, all in mint condition.

I noticed an ad for a sports memorabilia fair at Peddler’s Village and we took my shoebox over there. One of the vendors was my high school math teacher, Mr. Setek. He told me he would come by our house, go through the collection and make me an offer.

He carefully examined the cards, the same ones I used to throw around, and he was particularly impressed by the the full set of 1963 cards, especially the three Pete Rose rookie cards. He made us an offer of $1100 dollars. We were floored and accepted. On the way out he told us he planned to put the Pete Rose cards in a safety deposit box and then use them to help pay for his sons’ college tuition.

Peggi and I decided to take a tropical vacation with the money. An ad in the NYT showed package prices for three destinations. Cartagena was the cheapest, for good reason. We stayed in the Hilton and watched rifle armed guard walk circles around our hotel at night. It was our first taste of Cumbia!

We arranged for a motor boat to take us snorkeling on a coral reef. I remember a young German couple, a few others and a single woman on the boat with us. No one spoke the same language and the guy driving the boat spoke one of the native Columbian dialects.

We traveled along an inland waterway and then out to an island. We took a few steps offshore, put our masks on, our heads in the water and the sensation was like LSD. A lunch was included. Another boat came out to the island to deliver the food. The operators of that boat started partying with our boat operator. While we snorkeled they were playing load music and doing lines of cocaine.

After lunch we got back in the boat. The operator had turned surly. He drove as fast as he could on the way back. The single woman kept pleading with him to slow down. You can see the reds marks on my ass from bouncing on the hard seats as we tore through the jungle.

Paul on beach in Southern Spain. Photo by Peggi
Paul on beach in Southern Spain. Photo by Peggi

Back at the hotel Peggi laughed at the lines on my rear end. I loved that suit because it was all cotton. I hate jumping in a pool and having my suit fill up like a ballon. I found it interesting that the colors alone, black and white, let more or less light through for my sunburn. And the photo is histerical.

1 Comment

One Reply to “Cumbia, Cumbia”

  1. This is one of your funniest ever. I love the tour when the tour guide suddenly goes sour. That’s what you get with a discount vacation. However, those marks on you — formed by the bathing suit or seriously by the bouncing up and down on the hard seat? Yay to Peggi for these priceless shots!

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