Punta Cana, Helga & Driving in the Dominican

By: Aidan Bradley


Editor's Note: Our itinerant pundit-golf photographer is on the road again. Actually, Aidan Bradley is in the air, experiencing more joys of international air travel while en route to the Dominican Republic to shoot some pretty and spectacular golf courses. As you can see by the photos with this piece, the travails of Aidan trekking halfway around the world are worth it - at least for the rest of us.

Just flew from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Punta Cana. Left SB at 6 p.m. and arrived the following day in the Dominican Republic at 3.30 p.m. 21 hours later. The things I do just to photograph grass.

Had to take the "redeye" from LAX to JFK. Hoping to get a little shut eye, I decided to administer a little self-medication as I have problems sleeping on planes. I consumed six Irish whiskies, three premium beers, some of LAX's finest cuisine, and an Ambien to totally forget what I had just put into my system. That should do the trick right? NOT! All I wanted to do was hum "Danny Boy" and fall asleep. Have you ever spent five hours on a plane, moving your position every two minutes in one of those economy seats just so your neck won't freeze up in some weird position?

Next time, I'm driving.

The layover in JFK wasn't too bad; just about as much time as I want to spend in the Big Apple. But as soon as everyone had boarded and we were ready for one of those rare "on-time departures," the pilot informed us of a problem. Seems like one of the in-flight recorders was short of a few Ever Ready bunnies. Bummer! We were ordered to de-plane while they shipped another gadget in from La Guardia. Adding insult to injury, we were invited to sample some of JFK'S finest cuisine while we waited. Personally, I believe they were just seeing how long it would take to get everyone off in case a San Diego State coed offended some twit by wearing a short dress and showing off her delightfully God-given amplitude.

Despite these speed bumps, we arrived in Punta Cana a few hours behind schedule. Picked up the luggage, went through Immigration, and paid the $10 entrance tax . . . only one gate left before I was to meet my contact. Then I heard, "Senor, do you have the Blue Form?" Nobody told me I had to fill out a Blue Form. It looked very complicated and extremely long. "Senor, for $5 we can fill it out for you." Hey, it's no worse than having to pay $30 for a glass of Irish whisky in Ireland. Vive la difference!

They have a lot of potholes in the roads here, making Irish roads look like an Autobahn. The people are very pleasant but they sure drive crazily. Not full-out nuts like the Portuguese - more like a Latin dance. Move a little left, move a little right, move a little left. You get the picture, they just can't figure out which side of the road to drive on. They have more moves than David Beckham on his way to the bank. I know; they're just trying to avoid the potholes.

My client has put me up in a very nice hotel. It's "all-inclusive," which means you can eat and drink all you want. It attracts people from all over the world. I pride myself on being able to pick out various nationalities based on certain parameters, but the easiest is the difference between the English and American men (accents not included).

Americans wear baseball hats. Englishmen do not. Americans wear their baseball hats backwards. Englishmen do not, since they don't wear hats. Americans invert sunglasses on their heads. Englishmen don't wear sunglasses because they always expect rain. American men order funny-sounding drinks to remind their girlfriends of something they helped her achieve once in the past year, like "orgasm." Englishmen order a gin and tonic and forget to get something for their wives. Funny people we are.

At the end of the first day of work I stopped off at the hotel bar for a nightcap. Minding my own business, pleasantly day-dreaming, I was invited . . . well encouraged . . . no, ordered to sit beside this lady. She quickly stuck some kind of lethal concoction in front of me and said everything would be okay. If you ever wanted to know who put the "F" in Frankfurter, the "W" in Wiener schnitzel, and the "S" in Sauerkraut, you guessed it . . . I was sitting beside Herr Goebel's sister.

The last time my testicles ran for cover this deep was when Father Seamus wanted me to go the Aran Islands for a one-on-one on how to say a "Hail Mary" with a lisp. Needless to say, as soon as she excused herself to polish her Schnauzer, I got out of there faster than Benny Hill being chased by a Panzer unit. I have double-locked my hotel door, jammed a chair up against the knob and moved into another room. All I said was, "I shoot grass for a living." I don't think she heard the "G."

Next morning, under the cover of darkness, I checked out. I drove to the famed resort, Campo de Casa. Truth be known, I didn't drive, I was driven. It's a good job because if I had driven they would still be searching the sugarcane fields for me as I am directionally challenged. For anyone who has visited the Dominican Republic and ventured outside the confines of their beach-side resort, it is rather obvious that this is a very poor country. We see these images on CNN all the time and have become so jaded and content with our own lot that we don't give it a second thought. Some of these people earn somewhere between $3 to $10 a day, live in a tiny corrugated iron shack with no windows, and share their "casa" with a bunch of chickens and Borat's cow.

I was humbled by their generosity, respect and joy de vivre. Even in these meager and oftentimes squalid conditions, everyone seemed content, jovial and moved with purpose. Despite what we would consider adverse circumstances, these people just "get on with it." We would all do well to learn from this and embrace that attitude. Just deal with it and move on. I don't think there are too many shrinks in the Dominican Republic.

As I alluded to earlier, the driving in this country is nothing short of mind-boggling. It reminds one of the early ways in the Wild West. There are no laws and don't appear to be any enforcement. Just for a moment, visualize yourself in a long tube. You are swimming along with a dozen other tadpoles, winding left to right in a long samba-conga line. All of a sudden you look up and there is another conga line coming right at you. That's driving over here. The Dominicans' ability to get so close to each other and not collide is stunning. If I got that close to my wife she would have me deported for even contemplating bodily contact.

I am back in Punta Cana to finish up my last project. One of my favorite pastimes is people-watching. Sitting here in the hotel lobby bar I get to watch all the check-ins and check-outs. Meanwhile, I am constantly scouring my environment to make sure "Helga the Terrible" has not compromised my security perimeter.

Since this hotel is close to the airport, it is teeming with "flyboys" and "sky waitresses." This past evening the crew for a departing Air France flight was relaxing in the lobby awaiting a shuttle to the airport. Even in this dimly-lit environment it was obvious there were some very attractive women in my proximity. All of a sudden, as if on command, they all lit up. There is something about being intimate with a young lady who has Gauloise fumes wafting through her nasal passages that just gives me a virtual cold shower. Sorry for that less-than-glamorous image, but things are looking up as the crew from Air Sweden is inbound.

This just in: the outbound Air France crew is sitting at the bar. There are three pilots and they're all drinking beer. I poop you not. If I see any Delta pilots in here tomorrow I will personally administer a breathalyzer test. It would appear that "America's Worst" has not cornered the market on this preflight activity.

Not sure where my next adventure will take me, but I hope it will be as enjoyable, enlightening and entertaining as this one. I have emailed a head shot of Helga to the FBI, Interpol, Us Immigration and Delta Airlines. If she shows up on my doorstep, my wife will know I had more than two Cokes, my once-a-year hot flash, and couldn't resist showing her my prowess in Tiddlywinks.

Sleep well and live life large.



Aidan Bradley is regarded as among the best at his trade and is widely recognized for his ability to capture the excitement and mood of a golf course.

Over the years, Aidan's images have graced the pages of all the national golf publications and he is a regular contributor to golf coffeetable books such as "Nicklaus by Design," Golf Digest's "Top 100 Courses You Can Play," "Golf, The Women's Game," and many others. Titleist, Spalding Worldwide, Taylor Made, and Top Flight are but a few of the clients who have used Aidan's images in their ad campaigns.

Aidan was born in Cork, Ireland, where he lived for 21 years. He now resides in Santa Barbara, Calif., from where his work takes him to places that the most passionate golfer dreams of: St. Andrews in Scotland, Augusta National in Georgia, Ballybunion in Ireland, and The Challenge on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. Whatever the assignment, Aidan's focus on light and the surrounding natural environment consistently produces images that evoke a mood that even non-golfers find attractive and compelling.

For samples of Aidan Bradley's work, and more about this outstanding golf photographer, visit http://golfcoursephotography.com/home.asp.


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