Every night at Harbour Island begins at midday, when a beer on the beach dissolves into finding yourself floating face-down and unconscious in a stranger's swimming pool. I held off the midday drinking this year so I could remember what happened when I...
I don't know how familiar you are with The Bahamas (what, you've never been? That's weird), but when God made them, he evidently decided that there was only one place to go for anyone who wanted to embarrass themselves in a smog of hallucinogenic rum, puke-inducing dancehall and ill-informed 3 AM swims in the bay's shark-infested waters. And that place is Harbour Island.
I've visited the island a few times now and, from my experience, nearly every night out there begins at midday, when a beer on the beach dissolves into finding yourself clinging for dear, dehydrated life to the side of a golf cart or floating face-down and unconscious in a stranger's swimming pool.
I held off the midday drinking this year so I could remember what happened when I went out and write it all down for you to read.
Our first port of call was Harry O's, a beach bar that offers what any half-decent beach bar should: somewhere badly-lit to get your pre-party buzz on, while simultaneously donating a leg's worth of blood to a swarm of (presumably alcoholic) mosquitos.
As you can probably tell from the pure white light of that guy's chinos, Harry O's is situated in the pricier part of town. So, the clientele is mostly ex-pat Brits who live in weird little cottages and Cuban-American boat owners who realize that drinking on their docked-up yacht, surrounded by all the other docked-up yachts, is essentially getting drunk in a hideously expensive trailer park on the sea.
This is what a five-dollar single rum looks like at Harry O's. Three of these drinks will leave you hospitalized, babbling about how you need to breast feed to feel normal again.
Have you ever heard "Call Me Maybe" get a rewind? I hadn't either, until I moved on to the next venue, Gusty's. A large contingent of Harbour Island's party people are middle-aged American women who you never see during the day (the island's small enough to begin to recognize most people after 36 hours). But in the evenings, out they come, just living life with their girls, repeatedly requesting "Call Me Maybe" so they can scream the chorus at each other like they're yelling at their impotent, golf-obsessed husbands, but without the threat of being cut-off from the money supply.
I probably spent much longer than I should have pondering what this sign meant. Considering there were no less than three different groups of people sharing blunts in the smoking area at all times, and American yacht-brats doing bumps by the toilets, I'm intrigued to learn where the dirty/clean line is. Class As are fine, but absolutely no swearing? Sexually-aggressive daggering is A-OK, as long as it's not accompanied by dirty innuendo?
You see that box with TIPS written on it? (Probably not, that plant blocks the whole thing, but I promise it says TIPS.) People were actually tipping the DJ every time he played a song they liked. It kinda made me sad to think that that might be the only way he was getting paid tonight, but on the upside I now understand why whenever I get up behind the decks in London people start throwing their money at me.
Some form of second tier entertainment is obligatory at all clubs on Harbour Island, be it pool, ping pong, basketball, or watching two crackheads wage bets on whether they have the balls to chop each other's arms off. That last one is actually something I saw a couple of years ago. It ended with one guy losing his hand to a machete, but apparently the two fellas are still great friends. I suppose that demonstrates how you can always find a certain level of brotherly camaraderie in any given scenario if you're out of your mind on freebased, chemically-adulterated cocaine, which is heartwarming.
I have no idea why multiple people were taking photos of this situation. Is she a reality TV star? Barbara Streisand's tearaway niece? Who is he? Why's he so happy about standing next to her? Why is the floor made out of sand? Answers in the comments below, please.
I spilled my drink over some scary looking Mexican bankers so we left Gusty's and headed on to Daddy D's. Guess what? ODB never died, you guys! He just moved to The Bahamas, sacked-off the drug habit, carried on eating, and took to wistfully nursing beers in flip-flops. He seemed like a man finally at peace.
I'm not sure who these people were, and I'm not usually one to make snap judgements, but that watch, belly, and the punching-stratospherically-above-his-weight-with-two-hot-blondes thing screamed "aggressive Cuban millionaire" to me. Being in a club with that guy really bummed me out. There was a very real threat that soon magnums of Grey Goose were gonna get popped, which usually leads to a really shitty time watching rich people act like douchebags.
The next stop off was Vic-Hum, which was a club with its own fucking basketball court. My absolute favorite thing about this feature is being able to watch drunk Americans challenge locals to one-on-one games, while literally everyone else does their best to make the cocksure American challenger feel incredibly intimidated. There's something about witnessing a lamb being thrown to the slaughter that really soothes me.
This man is in charge of The Vic-Hum. His name is Hitler and he's holding the biggest coconut in The Bahamas. If you ever go to Harbour Island, make sure you go see Hitler and tell him I sent you. He'll take care of you. Hitler is a great guy.
I'm almost 100 percent sure I've never been to a club that proudly displays Republican propaganda posters behind the bar at the same time as its blasting drug-referencing, sexually explicit dancehall and reggaeton through its soundsystem.
This very blurry guy spotted our camera, came and sat down, rolled himself a blunt, then started maniacally shouting at us to take photos of him playing basketball by himself.
I think this was the fifth perspective shot he made us take of him shooting hoops and he missed all of them. I remember him punching me in the chest every time the ball rebounded off the rim, in that mock-friendly way that could have easily spilled over into for-real violence had he missed any more baskets. It was definitely me who was making him bad at basketball, though, so I suppose I'm not really in a position to complain.
This guy was the completely different, AKA the best. He'd seen the photographer looking nervy about photographing everyone, took him aside, and gave him a rousing pep-talk that quickly morphed from "It's fine to photograph strangers," into: "You're going to do big things with your life, man. I can see it now." If you were to have that kind of conversation with a man of equivalent age at a bar in Jersey, he would probably be a toothless, sore-assed freak and it would make you want to crawl home, reassess everything that he thought was good about you and do the exact opposite. But this guy changed a life.
What you see above is me, desperately trying to hold it together by switching back to beer after a night of tonsil-pickling rum punches. How more tourists don't die from alcohol poisoning out there is beyond me.
In the space of 15 minutes, the Daddy D crowd was treated to "212," "Dude Looks Like A Lady," "Hold Yuh," "Dancing Queen," and, of course, the eponymous breakout club banger that is "Call Me Maybe" for the fourth time that evening. It was kind of refreshing to not have any contrived "fluidity" to the playlist, or whatever it is that DJs say when they're trying to make spinning sound like an art form.
Young Money is clearly huge with Bahamian teenagers, as is anything that's not Bahamian, as far as I understand it. Unfortunately, that meant one of these guys was enthusiastically requesting a One Direction song without any tangible sense of irony.
This guy's face signaled both that people were getting increasingly tired of being assaulted with our flash, and that it was nearly 4:30 AM and probably time to go home before "Call Me Maybe" came on for the fifth time in a night and I started to hate the Western world so much I'd never want to leave.
So thanks, Harbour Island. You were a lot of fun!
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton
Previous Big Nights Out: