HAPPY BIRTHDAY. It was my birthday week and on Facebook alone I had more than 180 well wishers, showering me with their attention including Minister Otmar Oduber. I must admit, it felt good. The first party on Friday, shared with another Libra, the multi-faceted Mariza Garcia, was Oktoberfest at Dushi Bagels Bierhaus. It was a fun Argentinean-style German party, organized by professional party-people Fernando & Carina Latorraca. Gabriela Gonzalez and Dave “Paco” Ribbink were the life of the party dressed in traditional German Dirndl and Lederhosen! The birthday girls had custom-made aprons on, befitting beer-girls in Bavaria, made by the very talented Heidi Munzenhoffer from fabric leftovers held together by creativity! The following day, Sunset & BBQ at the Old Dutch Bar, with tremendous food from the Hollywood Smokehouse, to the soothing music of guitarist Jerry Diaz and percussionist Jairo Britten. Birthdays don’t get any better than that.
TRAGIC LOSSES. Two losses marked this week as tragic, that of Marcel van Berkum, 44, and Jeffrey Semerel, 34. I was perhaps the first island resident who met Marcel when he first arrived here from the Netherlands a few years ago with a gem of a wife, Juliet. He had this Euro-chic allure about him and he knew everything about techno lounge music and gourmet food. We enjoyed lunch at Delifrance, I believe, then he asked me where I think he would fit best, and I recommended Chez Mathilde. Marcel indeed pursued that avenue and worked there shortly, before moving on to become a management team-member and part-owner at Screaming Eagle/Flying Fishbone. He was always courteous and generous, always drinking, always grinning. He wanted to party forever, he did not like to be alone, he was an accident waiting to happen. His friends stood by him as long as they could, but he was on a self-destructive journey which could not be stopped. Our heartfelt condolences are sent to his two cute Swedish kids, his former wife Ulla, to all his good friends, and his former family members here. On the same note, I worked with Jeffrey for a while at Tierra del Sol, he was really enthusiastic about real estate. But he was a dreamer who could never hold on to just one project, or one girlfriend, not even one telephone number, as he kept changing his cell phones all the time. He went to school with my son, and showed much promise being charming, and intelligent and easy on the eyes. I don’t know what went wrong here and what internal demons he fought, but it is clear to me that the disease of addiction is a powerful enemy, claiming its victims from among the best and brightest. In both their honor, please read the original version of a poem, Please Hear what I’m Not Saying, By Charles C. Finn, this is how it starts: Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake don’t be fooled. I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command and that I need no one, but don’t believe me. My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask, ever-varying and ever-concealing. Beneath lies no complacence. Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. Please read the full version on line.
STORY OF THE WEEK. Over the past few weeks I kept the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa out of Bati Bleki. My company, Marketing Plus NV, does some work for the beloved resort, and I learned to live with the fact that the new General Manager Willem Schlecht, sorry, Plegt, did not believe in excessive PR, Marketing or Advertising, he told me so himself, which was sad for me, who knows that MARKETING IS EVERYTHING, i.g. the Kardashians. Anyway, he lost his job this week. The little people at the resort revolted against his strong-hand leadership and opted to voice their complaints to corporate echelons. It’s a classic theme: But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer. In the Bible, the Lord regularly sends saviors to the rescue, in Aruba, a couple of corporate VPs fulfilled that role, catching a flight to the island and ending the reign of King Willem. The reactions were mixed. A great sense of stress-relief among associates and an apprehension among other unrelated business executives who questioned the wisdom of giving the prisoners so much power over their jailors, I am just quoting. Remember, this is a gossip column, not the gospel, and we have no fact-checking department! Some people were also concerned over the instability it brings to our tourism sector on the eve of the high-season, in view of the fact that the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino and the Holiday Inn Sunspree are in management transitions. Back to our story. The Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa is a lovely property and the vision expressed by Plegt for its future was probably sound, however in the span of his seven months with us he outright fired, accepted the resignation or demoted his Casino Director, the Director of Operations, the Director of Security, the Director of Maintenance, the Director of Food & Beverage and the Executive Chef. How incompetent could these people be? They were all veterans, some also award winners. In our book, a manager’s job is to raise his staffers to his level, motivate and inspire by example, lead by faith, not fear. Aruba is an easy-going island, as long as you go easy, and the new GM should have grasped that concept on his second week here when he attempted to enforce hair and grooming rules at the casino with the help of lawyer Maura Brown. But business continues. Resort associates pulled together to deliver an excellent Client Appreciation party, on that same day Plegt was let go. Local community movers and shaker were shown a great time, and things did not fall apart. The Grand Dame is resilient, she’s been in business for the past 66 years and intends to stay in business for at least another 66. The food was delicious, the entertainment stellar and the décor, off the chart. Is Rob Smith, who now lives in Minnesota, working for Carlson Companies, coming back? I heard that suggestion, from more than one person. RC@visitaruba.com