Chapter 4: I am Christopher Atkins

CHAPTER 4
I AM CHRISTOPHER ATKINS

Formative years.
I believe we humans collect certain experiences in our youth that permanently register in our brains as much more than mere memories. If the age is just right, some events that surround us may well DEFINE us. They determine who we are, how we are built. Pretty sure. Hell, why do most men seek women that resemble their mothers? (wait- my mom was NOT brown-skinned. Okay, never mind)

As an impressionable teenager, I pedaled my Schwinn fifteen miles on one humid summer afternoon to spend my lawn-mowing earnings on a ticket to the movie “The Blue Lagoon”. I think I sported wood in anticipation even before I got to the theater, but at that age it might have just been the friction of the bike seat. I haven’t seen the movie since, but I can still recall the underwater nude swimming scenes. Vividly. (I SWEAR I saw her bush) Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins played cousins (!) who were stranded on a deserted tropical island together as children, and eventually grew to teenagers who discovered their sexuality together. Under the hot sun. In the warm lagoon. On the beach. Free. Absolutely free. Adam and Eve. No one to tell them to wear clothes. No one to keep them apart. No worries about food (lots of fish). No society to apply pressure of any sort. They did what came naturally.
As a land-locked boy long-obsessed with tropical islands, this beautiful scenery tingled my mind. As a girl-starved boy newly obsessed with anything remotely female, the beautiful barely-dressed teenage Brooke tingled my naughty bits as well. I became Christopher Atkins. I could FEEL me feeling her. (most likely, it was just me feeling me) I hung my head the day I learned it was only a body-double who swam naked on screen with the colorful fish in the lagoon. I think Brooke was maybe a bit too young for a nude scene in 1980. So was I.

Without trying to, I think I spent the next couple of decades searching for my own Blue Lagoon. I can just taste that clear salty lagoon water. I can hear the tropical birds from the lush jungle and I can feel the warm sand. I can smell those wonderfully feminine scents that sweaty outdoor lovemaking in the humid afternoon sun brings to life. I can just see the Blue Lagoon. My blue lagoon.

Last month, these were my old vivid daydreams of fantasy swirling in an office that sported a large framed photograph of some random lagoon in Bora Bora.
Today, these are my new vivid memories of reality swirling an office that sports a large framed photograph of one Big Lagoon, Miniloc Island, El Nido, Palawan, Republic of the Philippines… Aka: Boom Boom Lagoon.
Fantasy is good.
Reality is better.
(Trust me on this one.)

Apocalypse Now.
I sang. I sang straight into the humid wind filled with the scents of exotic flora bombarding my virgin nose. My voice was colored with the smile of adventure. I sang very loudly because the wind was madly rushing at the faces of the six passengers seated next to me in the little white speedboat charging down the muddy Nyung river toward its delta.
I sang Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”. Okay, not really. I mean, there ARE words to this famous opera,(German words, whatever) but instead I sang “Bum Budda Da-da, BUM budda DA-da”, to the tune in my head. We were in Cambodia, and I don’t mean the bar. There was napalm in the air. It was 1969.

Well… okay, not really the Nyung. This river was actually in Palawan, there was no napalm that I could smell, and the year was 2008. But holy bejesus, this place did look familiar. No, I’m far too young to be a vet from ‘Nam. However I did feel like I was at that river delta in the movie “Apocalypse Now” where Lt. Kilgore lamented that the smell of napalm in the morning. {inhale}“Smells like victory.”
Strikingly similar.
Weird.
(yes, its just one old movie to the next with me!)

The muddy jungle river conveniently led straight to the warm ocean from back at the wobbly bamboo dock next to the gravel jungle airstrip that passes for El Nido Airport. The speedboat’s little outboard engine was revving with an ever-increasing pitch, competing with my rendition of Wagner, straight out of the movie… right on cue. The other passengers looked at me like I was insane. Except for Spinner. Spinner smiled. (Boss is singing. Boss is happy.) Few people get all of my humor. (Hey, I’m funny in my own head. I think.) Convinced that the little rusty outboard would explode at that RPM, I finally hit pause on my personal opera, turned back to Lt. Kilgore(shorter, browner though) piloting from the stern, and hollered over the roar:
“JESUS, WHY SO FAST?!”
He shouted back, “NO DIE!”
I could see the furious white wake twist behind the boat as we rounded a bend. Way too fast for wakeboarding. Oh well. Next time.
“WHAT?” I scrunched up my face.
“NO DIE GUNNING!!” Lt Kilgore shouted while staring back over my shoulder, eyes glued to something ahead of the boat like a kid with an Xbox controller in his hands.
“FUCKIN’ AYE!…NO DIE GUNNING!” I shouted back in agreement. Fuck. Must be Viet Cong snipers on the shore. Fuck.
Okay, I didn’t REALLY think there were snipers– just my kind of fun in the midst of my iffy comprehension. Much later, I decoded this conversation. “No die gunning” was actually “Low tide coming”.
Had I not spent a whole night studying Bar Girl Communication 101 in the classroom of Mjibbo, I would have completely missed his subtle lip-pointing gesture. (Seriously: Lips? Pointing?) I spun around in my seat to see what Lt. Kilgore was staring at, pouting at, just as Spinner’s knuckles went white while clamping onto my wrist. Spinner was already looking forward.

Crashing two hundred meters ahead of the boat were large white frothy waves at the exact point where the muddy river met the angry South China Sea. We were hauling ass in VERY shallow river rapids as Kilgore smoothly trimmed up the outboard to clear the rocks looming about 9 inches below us. We hit the frothy delta with all the grace of a jet ski barreling up the surfing side of a righteous wave.
“WHOOO HOOO!” I shouted as my backpack floated weightlessly at knee level.
We splashed down with the relief of Apollo 13 astronauts while Lt. Kilgore throttled back to cruising speed. I tasted adrenalin on my tongue. I tasted salt water.

The captain of the larger, slower outrigger who waited for us just offshore completely lacked Lt. Kilgore’s sense of adventure. That was just fine with me. That was just fine with all of the other passengers.
Fourty minutes of amazing scenery entertained us as we slowly traveled through the Bacuit archipelago with El Nido town and all civilization fading behind us in the distance. Dozens of ripped, jagged vertical gray limestone cliffs dotted with tropical greenery jutted out of the ocean off both port and starboard gunwales, as if unexpectedly pushed upward millions of years ago by some artistic force.
“Ohhh… this is cool,” was all I could utter.
As we passed each lush green and gray deserted island in the Miniloc Ecological Preserve, I examined the many white sand beaches. I held Spinner’s hand in the breeze. The daydreams started. The grin started.

When the outrigger finally slowed, we were just offshore from the very remote Miniloc Island Resort. It was almost completely hidden in a huge cove on eastern Miniloc Island, surrounded on three sides by those same gray jagged cliffs reaching thousands of vertical feet. The small resort with its white beach occupied the entire cove behind the breakwater, from cliff-to-cliff. Visible were many thatched roof huts, plush beach chairs, and on the left was a row of little cottages on stilts over water that captured my curious gaze. Déjà vu. Stilts. Of course. The photograph of Bora Bora in my office. My fantasy. My island. So it began.

The entire smiling Miniloc staff welcomed us with a cheesy song and dance routine complete with all the enthusiasm of the dreaded Angeles shuffle on a slow Monday in Lolipop. My polite smile and pained eyes did not match, so Spinner and I pulled a covert egress, finding the only place to eat for many miles- the resort’s outdoor restaurant. I had purchased the “complete package” which included three meals per day (minus alcohol) and all the water sports. The cheaper option was a room only, but I doubt that anyone could actually survive on just stray Lapu Lapu speared while snorkeling. (Christopher Atkins didn’t NEED no stinking snorkel, bro!) Luckily the restaurant was decent. Buffet style, it usually included a stir-fry chef to make up whatever Mongolian-style meat and veggie mixture one might fancy. Out of the dozens of spices, I successfully crafted tasty Indian, Tai, and Chinese meals with chicken, shrimp, and beef (I noticed the USDA imported fillet mignon boxes from the outrigger). Spinner usually stuck to mere meat and rice but with very creative sauce concoctions. She selected soy and chili sauce, carefully chopping up odd shaped little red and little green peppers, seeds included. I just had to taste her sauce. (haaa) I took a piece of chicken, drowned it in her creation, and tasted. BANG. Wow. I do like spicy food, but this was Dave’s Insanity hot, threatening to blister my lips. Spinner grinned.

Our thatched-roof air conditioned hut was not quite up to Western 5-star standards, but it was very hip. We were in a little bamboo cottage on stilts, just large enough for a bed and bathroom, no TV.(good call) Its saving grace was the covered porch that included a day-bed style couch and pillows. The row of water cottages were cleverly arranged, so that every porch was isolated from neighbors while still providing a great view of the lagoon. This thing was PERFECT for boom-boom after dark! Spinner and I explored the resort then took the rest of the afternoon to allow our bodies to become slowly reacquainted with the special kind of sweaty lust usually prompted only by teenage hormones.

Just before dinner, we boarded an outrigger for “bottom fishing”. I was a bit bummed about the lack of real sportfishing, but what the hell- give me a rod and I’m happy to go local and try for Lapu Lapu. Well, I went local, but it wasn’t exactly a ROD they handed me on the boat. It was more like a small bicycle wheel rim wrapped with 30# fishing line. Are you KIDDING me?? Nope. The technique was to hook some squid and let the line spool to the bottom, at which point we were expected to tug the bare line until something bit, then haul the line hand-over-hand. Fucking quaint.
“Hey Fish-Killer, do you have a rod and reel on board? I don’t need a Penn International, just lightweight tackle will do, diba?”
“Oh, no, sir. This is the traditional way we fish here. No need for rod and reel, sir,” replied the friendly captain.
It turns out that the SMLs I took on board were a life-saver. There was no need for a rod and reel because there was no real intention of catching any fucking fish. Maybe it was the mellow atmosphere at this resort, but I felt absolutely none of my typical knee-jerk angst as a result. (no heat/humidity education) Was I finally relaxing? First I was all wound-up to slay some big game, then relented to hopes of bottom fish, then was merely happy to be surrounded by 360 degrees of beauty with a cold beer. I just sipped my SML, enjoyed the sunset from the boat, and smiled at the fading orange light highlighting Spinner’s delicate features while she struggled with the pile of tangled fishing line at her feet. (technology trumps tradition, diba?)

After a scrumptious stir-fry dinner, Spinner let her SML do the talking, spouting some yang about playing really good billiards because of off-hours practicing where she worked. After adjusting for the wind velocity of the beach bar pool table, I promptly disposed of her misconception. We retired early for wound licking, and spent the rest of the evening on our front porch day-bed. Our sweaty forms were safely hidden by the darkness, yet Spinner’s noises were occasionally met with my hand to her mouth followed by our quiet laughter.

Boom Boom Lagoon.
As the next day’s hazy mid-morning sun grew hotter, we grabbed a two-man kayak from the white beach next to our water cottage. I was determined to paddle to the two famous lagoons on the island, owning the overly-creative names of Big Lagoon and Little Lagoon. We were politely warned not to go to Big Lagoon until after 12:00noon because it was not possible to enter the inlet during low tide. I think my right eyebrow raised slightly at this warning, while I recalled Lt. Kilgore’s shallow water technique from the speedboat. (when in doubt, go faster!)
We paddled along the picturesque jagged gray green East coast of Miniloc Island until we came across the tantalizing cliff-saddled inlet to Big Lagoon. The warm Bacuit Bay was rushing into Big Lagoon via crystal clear swift rapids that were only about 3 inches deep. You guessed it. Before Spinner could protest twice, I navigated our little yellow plastic kayak with the two inch draft into the “river”, dodging rocks and coral. (of course I was in back, steering) Sixty seconds of excitement without a punctured kayak or broken coral ended with a calm landing into the sparkling, incredibly deep blue Big Lagoon of Miniloc. I knew instantly. I could smell it. I could feel it. MY BLUE LAGOON. It was strangely familiar. If the climax of years of anticipation actually has a taste, then that was exactly the taste on my lips at that very moment. I caught my breath at the raw beauty. Spinner spun around just then and caught something magical in my eyes of wonder, suddenly smiling broadly right back at me.
“Baby? We’re going swimming,” I whispered, still in awe of the dead-silent tall gray cliff cathedral that skirted the glassy turquoise water, concealing this little paradise from the outside world. It felt right to whisper, though we were very alone in one of those rare moments of nature in which one is truly humbled by the creator of such splendor.

The dark circle of steep cliffs left absolutely no beach available, but the very thoughtful folks at Miniloc Resort had anchored a large wooden raft in the middle of the lagoon. We tied off our trusty rapids-worthy kayak to the raft and climbed onto the deck. Spinner dropped her paddle as I dropped my board shorts, unashamed to stand naked in the sun. Spinner’s mouth opened at my audacity, glancing cautiously in the direction of the hidden inlet.
“Come on, live a little!” I shouted mid air while executing a carefully over-rotated swan dive so as to avoid all possibility of the dreaded belly-flop with the junk hanging out. (!) Spinner finally dropped both pieces of her bikini onto the raft deck and jumped in with me. I will always remember my pure joy surrounding our slow-motion nude swimming through the sparkling sun beams. Dolphins. Dolphins in mating season, I tell you.

Onomatopoeia.
I now realize that Tagalog is PACKED with words that have meanings that sound just like the very action described by the word. On Boracay (in Chapter 3) I learned that “suka” actually SOUNDS like the puking that it describes. On the wooden raft in the middle of Big Lagoon, I learned that the action of “boom boom” actually SOUNDS like the phrase. The floating boards of the raft loudly reverberated like a bass drum across the lagoon as Spinner and I transferred our underwater dolphin-mating technique to the raft deck like two of Darwin’s creatures, quickly making the water-to-land transition.
BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
“Boom Boom Lagoon,” indeed.
It seems that all other kayakers that morning obeyed the low tide warning, because we had a solid solitary hour in which to play Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.
Good Times.

The Small Lagoon was equally impressive for scenery but completely packed with snorkellers who arrived by outrigger from El Nido town and Lagen Resort. Spinner and I explored this lagoon with the other tourists, but we shared many longing glances that hinted at wishes for privacy. The next morning, our unspoken wishes were granted.

Boom Boom Beach.
“Sir, you may choose from scuba diving, cliff climbing, fishing, hiking, wind surfing, kayaking, bird watching, sailing…” droned the smiling pinay hostess whose job it was to keep the easily-bored guests from running low on stimulation.
“Umm, can we just go to a remote beach?” I responded. I had read on the www.elnidoresorts.com website that there were many beautiful remote beaches to explore on the 45 deserted islands in the area. MY idea of fun, castaway style.
“Of course, sir. What would you like to do there?”
I fought the involuntary grin while I squeezed Spinner’s hand, seated next to me. I struggled, then I spontaneously exploded with a sudden snort.
“Snorkeling!” I volunteered. “We like to snorkel!”
Both Spinner and the hostess watched me crack up with confused amusement on their faces.

The wooden boat’s happy captain shouted only one question as we jumped from the tiny craft onto the pristine hidden beach of the unidentified deserted island mid morning.
“What time pick up?!”
“Umm, how about four o clock?” I shouted back as he was already motoring away.
“Okay, sir!”
We were officially marooned together on an uninhabited island in the middle of a very sparsely populated sea. Just as Spinner and I began dropping our swimwear as if we were still floating on a certain large lagoon, an outrigger appeared. Crap. Muslim rebels?
“Hello, sir! Your lunch is here!” shouted the guy on the bow.
Holy shit. Lunch, indeed. The two guys produced a real wooden table, two chairs, and enough food for maybe ten people. They planted the table under the only shade tree on the white beach, and then we were given fillet mignon, grilled fish of three varieties, and many other dishes. After serving up the feast, they quickly sped away but not before one of the guys shouted: “LIKE ADAM AND EVE!”

Spinner and I laughed, sat and gorged, lounged then finally waded into the inviting clear water. I spent the next few hours perfecting the fine art of love making in two feet of warm salt water, punctuated by love making on beach towels, sun on my ass. We were completely alone, completely naked, miles away from the nearest human. Free in the sunshine. Free in the warm salty ocean.

We were busy perfecting the ocean portion of this intimate paradise-love routine when we heard the sudden crashing of plates on our beach lunch table.
“Oh, look, there is a bird eating our leftover food,” pointed Spinner.
“Umm, I’m thinking bigger than a bird,” I responded after seeing a large tail hanging down one side of the table.
The monitor lizard that dropped right out of the tree onto our table was not a huge specimen at roughly one meter from head-to-tail. However, he was a bit larger than my naked self was cool with, for lizard-picture time. Fuck that.
It turns out that we were not really marooned, because at exactly 4:00pm we were picked up by the same friendly crew that dropped us off.
The next morning included scuba diving and rock climbing, but Spinner and I shared a longing look that inevitably led to Boom Boom Beach Number 2. We left the remote Miniloc Resort as nudists. We left as intimate partners, with a taste of true paradise.
Wow, is all I can write, stumbling for adjectives, adverbs, and similes.
Wow.
My old fantasy was fulfilled.
Big time.

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