So began our instruction in the double lives of North Caicos. The lesson was so indelible that once, when I saw a “Saturday Night Live” skit about Jamaicans working five or six jobs, I cried, “That’s North!”
Nearly 30 years later, not much has changed. Kadra Handfield runs a liquor store, grocery store and car rental business. Addison Forbes has a painting/handyman service and is planning to open a restaurant. Sharon Taylor has a store on Middle, but also works for the restaurant at Mudjin Harbor.
Nor does this idea of “more than one way to make a living” belong only to modern times. Traditionally, people on North and Middle made their way through double, triple, even quadruple lives: Farming AND fishing AND running a trade boat AND making crafts AND so on.
These double lives make perfect sense on a small, mostly remote island. Weather is fickle, and sometimes conditions are not right for fishing. Doing stonework or painting for others is lucrative, but sporadic. It’s wise to have a this and a that.
But this goes beyond the lives of belongers. Doubling up is also wise for expats, retirees and anyone who spends chunks of time in the islands. It’s one thing to have a fishing vacation on North, and quite another to hope for constant good fishing when you’re there for six months. Having a plan, plus an alternate plan, for your days keeps your time in paradise from dissolving into dissolution. Margaritas on the beach are a fine way to spend a vacation day or two; there is danger when drinking becomes a lifestyle rather than a treat.
I know I’m a poor one to preach. Liquors Plus and the Barracuda make lots of money from the Rathgebs when we visit. But I wonder how much worse it would be if, in addition to reading and walking the beach, we were not doing mosaic, taking photographs, writing and gardening. Go ahead and drink your wine, but also consider making the wine and doing a bit of fishing, a la David Kennedy. Or experiment with fabulous recipes for the fish you catch. Work on a novel. Paint. Raise chickens.
THEN raise a glass. Oh, okay, make it a double, like your double life. Cheers!