Post 73 – So Long, Farewell

The view from the cable car platform. Carolyn was not invited to the party.

The view from the cable car platform. Carolyn was not invited to the party.

Staying for the fourth year was the right decision for Larry and Jean, but it was bittersweet. Many of their good friends had completed their contracts and would soon be leaving. The friendships that had formed on the island went deeper than any they had ever made before. Shared experiences in such a unique setting as well as the thrill of being pioneers in a bold new experiment had made for a bond that felt like it would last a lifetime. It wasn’t exactly Band of Brothers, but the past few years of getting the ETV program off the ground had been a little like jungle warfare. The only shooting going on was with a camera, but the conditions had been primitive at best. Not to mention the foot fungus.

There was a core group of six couples that had become close, and two of them were scheduled to leave within a few weeks. One of the ladies also had a birthday coming up and it was decided that a Going Away/Birthday party for the group of twelve would be a nice way to say goodbye. (For those of you who were there, the couples were Gene & Farida, Jay & Patty, Sally & Don, Bob & Tuffy, Larry & Jean and Bill & Jean D., who was also the birthday girl)

A circular concrete observation slab had been poured halfway up the mountain at the boarding point for the cable car. The tramway had been built to allow access to the TV antennae on top of Mt. Alava and the cable stretched nearly a mile across Pago Pago harbor. The journey was shaky and windy with magnificent views that made the rider realize just how small the island was when seen from that height. And also to hope that the end of the cable was tied in a really good knot.

On that night, the observation area held a round picnic table that had been set with white linens, good china, sterling flatware and silver candlesticks. The path up from the parking area was lined with plants and flowers, and the scent of pua blossoms followed them to the top and mixed with the bouquets that adorned the table. The couples started to arrive at sunset, as the blazing rays glinted off the tiny boats in the harbour and the light across the bay was filtered with a rosy glow.

Champagne glasses were filled and held in waiting as the birthday girl climbed up to the area and was astonished to find a formal dinner party breaking out on top of the mountain. Toasts were offered and Happy Birthday! was sung as the group of twelve sat down to a meal of beef stroganoff, asparagus with toasted almonds, seasoned rice and chocolate cake. Background music was provided by a small tape deck, and as dinner progressed, the sun sank below the horizon and a velvet darkness fell over the mountain. Pinpoints of light came on around the harbor and dotted the sides of the hills, but they were insignificant compared to the explosion of stars that filled the sky. Tiny lanterns had been strung around the perimeter to make sure no one fell off the platform, and no one even gave a thought to the fact that all the stuff that had been carried up there was going to have to be carried down.

“The men all wore long pants, shirts and ties and the women long dresses in beautiful prints. There were at least two million stars out and the air was warm with a slight breeze blowing. After a delicious meal, four bottles of wine and all that atmosphere, we were all in a very quiet and slightly unreal mood. So we danced for a little while and then sat around the table looking at the stars and talking about the past three years and all the things that had happened. It was Jeannie’s birthday party but it was actually the Tofa party for the group. There will be others, I suppose, but this was the one that meant the most.”

Jean

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2 Comments to “Post 73 – So Long, Farewell”

  1. I remember that special evening very well. I’ve told the story many times, but I’m not certain anyone who hasn’t been there really understands how beautiful it was. I also remember schlepping all that stuff up and down the hill. But it was worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the memories – I remember that night very well.

    Liked by 1 person

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