Let me introduce you to the most hysterical, fascinating and altruistic human being I have ever encountered. She is about 5 and a half foot tall, with a killer body, little fake boobies, oily golden skin, and a face that expresses her lifestyle before her figure. She smells of tanning oil, cigarettes, cheap perfume, and vodka – all at once. I thought Katie and I swore like sailors. Apparently not. Mary Jean Bentley aka MJ, is our new best friend. When we first crossed over to the Bahamas, we arrived at Bimini Sands Marina. While sitting by the pool one morning I hear a loud, raspy voice hurtling my direction in a golf cart she is steering far from sober. At 10:00 am, MJ is dressed up in all yellow, plugs in her boom box by the pool, turns it up loud and plops her Stoli vodka and assortment of juices on the abandoned pool bar. She knew everyone on the premises, and everyone knew her. Each individual was referred to as “Baby” or “Baby girl”, no one had names. But MJ had a name. You couldn’t miss her. You could taste hear her from a mile away. “Every two weeks I fly to Fort Lauderdale to get my nails done” Completely entertained by this crazy woman who could not sit still for more than 3 seconds, or carry a conversation for more than 30. I sat quietly observing her interaction with people. Strangers or not, she wanted to know everything about everyone. I could see the looks on peoples faces when she turned around, the comments, the raised eyebrows. I couldn’t help but become curious about why she was the way she was. A blonde, white woman, with a ghetto southern accent, living here on the island of South Bimini. From the outside, a hot mess, but it was obvious she had a hell of a story. After waiting till she finished her next cocktail, I walked over and asked her if she would mind if I took her photo. She was flattered, a little nervous, camera shy, but more than willing to fill me in on her life. Thirteen years ago when Bimini Sands Marina needed investors, MJ and her ex-husband both from Atlanta, GA, helped fund the project. They were promised the first condo built on site. Her Husband later abandoned her, leaving her with the condo. She never left Bimini, and continued to invest in not only Bimini Sands, but in both the North and South islands. When I asked her if she had ever worked on the islands she replied “Oh yes! I feed all the stray dogs, take care of the children, and make sure the police are doing their job” “Look girls, I have tons of old fishing stuff. Do you want this gaff?” The woman can cook. This spaghetti sauce was spectacular, but every third bite or so, you could taste tanning oil. She didn’t let us leave Bimini the first time without all of her spare groceries, a cocktail and a massive gaff. We didn’t know if we would ever see her again. In the back of my mind, I was hoping we would. All though, you can only handle her in small doses, it’s great to meet people like MJ, who become the defining moments of traveling.
OVER TWO MONTHS LATER…..
Back in Bimini Sands Marina, waiting for this tropical storm to blow through. Katie and are exhausted from our overnight, and just want to sleep. But it’s to hot, and the noseums chomp on our skin. Annoyed and impatient, knowing we will sit at this dock for the next week in horrible weather, with no where to go. We were desperate for friends, and hoping to run into MJ for entertainment. Within the first hour we arrived, there was MJ and a little Bahamian girl named Tutu, storming down the dirt road in that same golf cart. Thrilled to have us back, she insisted on taking out to lunch. And by lunch, she meant cocktails. After cocktail number 3, she offered us her spare bedroom for the week while waiting out the storm. Katie and I looked at each other wide-eyed, smiling ear to ear knowing we would be crazy to pass up an air-conditioned bedroom, with an attached bathroom, real flushing toilet and a fantastic room mate!!! We happily accepted the offer, knowing our next couple days would be absolutely insane. We got to know eachother very quickly. She was very upfront about her narcotic usage, and instructed us to knock or yell when we wanted to come upstairs. She didn’t want us to see her using, or to be involved in her bad habits. She gave us a key to the condo, fed us, and supplied us with vodka -oj’s for days. Everyday we would go on a new adventure, and every day she got louder and more entertaining by the hour. Despite her intoxication, she never forgot to collect all scrap food from the restaurants for the stray dogs, never forgot to pay her tabs, insisted on paying for everyone all the time (not just Katie and I, often the entire bar), and always over-tipped. This was MJ’s gift to me. A spiky bra. Probably the coolest thing I have ever put on.Coffee and pancakes every morning. For MJ vodka, and pancakes.We all need a fake pony-tailMJ’s closet was a combination of a halloween store, and a strip club dressing room. With a body like hers, she could wear anything she wanted. She loved to turn heads, make a statement…. be remembered. All of the above successful.This is Tutu. A little girl MJ “watches” over during the week days. In all honestly, Tutu watches over MJ. Tutu keeps everyone in check. She’s smart, sassy, and has the attitude of a 14 year old teenager. Tutu yells are MJ when she is not behaving, and MJ feeds her fruit soaking in wine spritzer when she doesn’t shut up. The relationship between these two, was more like an quirky adult friendship. Katie and I helped watch Tutu all week. She cracked us up, and was never afraid to speak her mind. She liked to sing and knew damn well how to shake her booty. I’d say she taught us a thing or two about growing up in the Bahamas.Our last night in the Bahamas, MJ got us all dressed up and took us out one last time. She was truly sad to see us go, and it was obvious how much she enjoyed taking us in.
By the end of the week she had us both nick-named. I was “Shitty Jason” She could never remember my name, so I became Jason. The “Shitty” part came from a long trip I took to the bathroom at a restaurant, turned out the water wasn’t working so I couldn’t flush… forcing me to leave the employees with a nice gift in the toilet. Therefore “Shitty Jason.” Katie became “Katie the paper taker” after stealing some toilet paper from the restaurant when we ran out at the condo. We were introduced to the entire island as “Katie and Jason.” I went with it.
A completely unexpected delay on our route back to America. Possibly one of the greatest weeks spent all year. MJ became a great friend. Underneath all her bad habits, she has a wonderful heart, and is way smarter than anyone gives her credit. Living with her for a week, was ridiculously fun, overwhelming, and hysterical. I will never forget the drunken golf cart excursions, watching her water-ski like a pro, and laughing until it hurt. Thank you MJ, we can’t wait to see you again.