Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, July 9th, 2017

Djiespie’s Place, Aruba of Yesteryears!

In search of authentic experiences we went local, arriving on Friday just past sunset at Djiespie’s place, Plaza Nikki Habibe, Oranjestad.

You could say I was Djiespie’s colleague, a long time ago. He was THE press photographer on the island and worked for the Amigoe di Aruba newspaper. I called him many times to cover press events, and he always cooperated, often showing up with Django from the Diario, another legendary press photographer, but don’t let me digress.

Djiespie was close with the undertaker Zepp Wever, and when Zepp transitioned to another world Djiespie’s wife and daughters took over Zepp’s refresqueria across the Amigoe di Aruba offices, at the end of the main street. The refresqueria occupied the street level of a gorgeous art deco building, where Zepp and Djiespie had coffee every morning, at the long counter with red vinyl swivel stools, before heading to work, one to host the funeral, the other to photograph it.

So now you know what a refresqueria is, snacks, ice cream, coffee, nothing complication. Djiespie’s is that to this day. Drinks and snacks, the basic stuff.

Five days a week you can get your pastechi and your morning newspaper and coffee there; on the sixth day Etty Topperberg gives his weekly Friday night concert — you haven’t lived until you’ve attended.

Etty is a troubadour. A rare talent. I can listen to him talk and sing for two hours and enjoy every second. He sings folkloric compositions and old songs, strums a guitar and some of the old timers accompany him on spoons, and on wiri.

Then the old-timers also do the quick-quick-slow, quick-quick-slow and shuffle effortlessly on the pavers, gliding smoothly and seamlessly to the music. Dancing, something you never forget.

What fun we had sipping our Gallo wine, White Grenache Rosé from a small bottle, while watching the plaza come live.

Sometimes during the evening, we were treated to the second round of drinks by a gallant elderly gentleman I met at the bar; he offered to trade a kiss for a drink. I gave it and took it. He claimed we have been friends forever, and intoxicated by Etty’s music I had no reason to doubt it.

The old-timers still have a lot of life in them, don’t underestimate the septuagenarians.

Next Friday, take out your comfortable shoes and your glittery top, sprinkle a bit of Old Spice Eau de Toilette  or Tabac Original, 4711 Eau de Cologne is welcome too,  and join the party.

Thank you journalist Juby Naar for refreshing my memory. Juby, Django and Djiespie are old friends. Juby and Etty are brothers, having been breastfed by the same lovely woman, Etty’s mom.

Thank you Maria, for the pleasure of your company!

A false sense of entitlement

I saw in Awemainta yesterday a photo of three sitting ministers and a former one, making “an acto di presencia,” at the Summer Festival enjoying themselves, obviously in the VIP diamond section.

What does an acto di presencia mean? They got tickets, since they are all together, they must have received tickets, because if they had paid for their own tickets, they would have been standing in different areas, not together.

Who paid for the tickets? Elmar? Setar? Web? Utilities? The former Valero Marketing & Fuels Supply Aruba (VMSA), whatever its new name is??

It is normal for companies to buy tables at events, but give them to government ministers?

They should have rewarded their top line employees with concert tickets.

Why are ministers getting free concert tickets? What it is about their job description that entitles them to that privilege?

(I am not sure about the MinFin, he is a tax man, he knows better, not to receive free gifts.)

Question: Will the ministers declare the gift of free tickets, $500, on their taxes, and pay the belasting on them just like their fellow-Arubans, threatened to be stopped at the airport this summer for failure to pay fines and taxes?

Anyway, according to me, this was a missed opportunity to campaign among the peasants at the back of the arena. The ministers should have spent some time with voters standing in the boonies, and not upfront as VIPs.

This reminds me of yesterday’s news story about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who was photographed sunning himself and enjoying the New Jersey beach that he had closed to the public over the July 4 weekend because of a government shutdown.

He had a false sense of entitlement too.

Where did the leaders who are trusted-servants go?

Why are they now accepting free concert tickets, paid for with our money?

They are supposed to be role models, humble, men of the people.

What happened to that concept?

While the music was great, everything else about the concerts was a logistical nightmare. Shame on organizers for falling to organize, three years in a row.

Long Live Jet Blue

From the AHATA June report:

“Traffic from the USA was up by 9.7%, from 50,504 stopovers in May 2016 to 55,387 stopovers in May 2017. Traffic was up by 30.4% from Massachusetts, up by 15.0% from Pennsylvania, up 5.1% from New Jersey and up 4.9% from New York State. Arrivals from Florida showed a 31.6% increase linked to the new daily JetBlue service from Fort Lauderdale which was introduced in January 2017.”

So you already know that the island had a good Spring and is looking forward to a decent Summer because Jet Blue flies in daily, out of Fort Lauderdale, delivering butts into beds.

Elementary my dear Watson = More air seats equals more-better tourist season!

Aruba has been courting American Airlines, JetBlue and other airlines for more air seats for a long time. In fact, since the beginning of time. But the airlines have a standard response: If you shell out some dollars, to mitigate the risk we’re taking, we’ll consider the flight.

Sometimes the price tag is too high and we cannot afford it.

But sometimes the price is right, as in the current JetBlue case, then the partners may say: “Let’s do it.”

Last year, president Obama relaxed the sanctions against Cuba and the whole world predicted Cuba will explode; Cuba will become a major tourist draw, a powerful competitor within the Caribbean. Then with the new President and talk about a travel bans, nothing happened, especially for Cuba, almost nothing happened.

So at the beginning of the year, or maybe t the end of last year, JetBlue said YES to Aruba. It augmented its fleet of planes in anticipation for Cuba to open up wide; the company had the planes, but Cuba was an unsure thing, and Aruba was knocking on the door, persistently.

Wow, it was a total success and Ronella Tjin Asjoe Croes told me they are talking to JetBlue about another flight, even more air-seats, a second flight. That’s good news.

Credit for this opportune JetBlue win-win goes to the CEO of ATA, and her team, she insists; she pushed and went back to them relentlessly, until they said OK, we’re coming to Aruba, just get off our backs!!

Back to Square One

Before you jump up and down, and shoot fireworks, please cancel the show and call off the dancing girls.

We’re back to square one.

The verdict in the case involving the upcoming development on Palm Beach was a kort geding decision, given in a short procedure, so the judge only looked at ONE issue, if there was any urgency here, as Meta Corp stated, for MinInfra and DIP to move their you-know-whats and release the terrain, so Meta Corp could build a movie-plex before 2018, when their lease at Paseo Herencia expires.

The judge said, no, no urgency. Too bad for Meta Corp, but that is just a business risk, they should be able to take. And if the MinInfra and DIP have reservations whether or not Meta Corp complied with all building requisitions, they should be allowed to hold on to them.

So the whole shebang is now at the hand of the MinInfra and his dippy people; GOA doesn’t need to rush into any decisions, they can continue to stall!

What my friends say: GOA simply didn’t want to grant Meta Corp the terrain. It’s all political. The option was give in a different time, by an opposition minister, now running for office with a competing party, and GOA just doesn’t feel like granting it. The area is already congested and densely exploited, and another massive development of a parking garage, and two movie floors – the theaters require a high ceiling — would not have made a big difference. The land is defined as greenland not wetland, which means the MinInfra could allow development, if he so desired, because only wetlands are “niet ontvankelijk,” undevelopable, and he can make an exception for greenland.

Just a reminder, land is “niet ontvankelijk” if of archaeological value, i.e. Malmok.

The judge did not rule on the poor birds or stressed bees. In order to address the core issue of conservation a regular procedure must be filed, bodemprocedure, just the way it was done for the Bubali Project.

And, please remember the court does not have a wide margin of discretion in these cases, it may just decide if granting the land for development is in accordance with ROP, RUIMTELIJK ONTWIKKELINGSPLAN, the area development plan, which is the bible to go by. And if ROP is inadequate or outdated, it’s still the law, and still the bible.

So the verdict just means that Meta Corp cannot force GOA to move, but when GOA is ready, perhaps tomorrow, Meta Corp still has an option. And GOA did not nix Meta Corp’s construction plans, not yet anyway. GOA THINKS that not all criteria have been met. But we do not know for sure.

So yes, it will be the minister’s decision, and the arguments of bird life are for the birds, because they were not even heard.

Where dining is better than fine: L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House launches new menu & craft cocktails

We were invited for a tasting of the newly evolved L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House menu. The event, on a recent Friday evening, drew a large number of hospitality concierges and members of the media, eager to try cool craft cocktails and savor interesting bites.

Party host General Manager Paul Gielen and his crew, including restaurant manager Heidi Michiels manned the reception line at the entrance, happy to meet and greet enthusiastic guests.

On a personal note, dinner at L.G. Smith’s just got a shot in the arm, with the addition of a Steak Tartar appetizer, one of my favorites, and the addition of a Flat Iron Steak, which I do not remember on the menu before; it’s not an aristocratic cut, but it is extremely flavorful!!

The menu now defines itself as elevated, tweaked, but some things stay constant: USDA-inspected, aged-prime steaks and house specialties including rack of lamb and fresh local seafood.

The new appetizers, entrees and desserts, loaded with crowd-pleasers, include Short Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, and Grilled Shrimp, which are all given a modern, Americana twist. Some of the chef’s favorite new dishes include Foie Gras Duo, Wagyu Tenderloin, Cowboy, Porterhouse and Tomahawk steaks, also Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp. Big Oscar?? I am not quite sure what it is, but it must be related to Veal Oscar, thin veal cutlets topped with crab and béarnaise sauce, yum.

The restaurant’s new brunch concept offers guests an all-you-can-eat a la carte menu of cold and hot tapa-style dishes, soups, salads, and desserts and unlimited mimosas. Guests may enjoy the selections one plate at the time, and repeat if they wish, picking from among classics such as Asparagus a la Flamander, Steamed Clams with White Wine Sauce, Shrimp, Peppered Bacon & Sweet Corn Chowder, Local Fish, Eggs Benedict, and Pumpkin Ravioli. Best of all, three new killer dishes include Lobster Parmentier, on a bed of potato with American, tomato-wine sauce, Crispy Lamb chops with ratatouille, and roast duck breast on caramelized apples.

The restaurant’s new craft cocktails embody elements such as earth, fire and water, and are fun to try; I can recommend Fire, a sweet and sour whiskey with a twist. The restaurant now fully embraces the Craft Cocktail trend and incorporates fresh organic juices, local Aruban aloe, premium whiskey, bourbon, gin, port and cognac; and/or herbs such as lavender, sage and sweet bay leaf, among other ingredients. The unexpected presentation of each drink is what takes the cocktails to the next level, delivering the trends of modern mixology.

Wine anyone? The restaurant now also flaunts a more extensive wine list with selections from around the globe — over 120 wines to choose from.

And some of the décor and overall look and feel of L.G. Steak & Chop House have been enhanced to reflect the stylish location, and the contemporary, friendly, welcoming, modern steakhouse atmosphere, serving upscale food and libations, against the spectacular view of the Oranjestad marina and cruise ship harbor.

Most importantly, the latest tweak, a DJ booth, where the house DJ plays. The restaurant will also welcome visiting international DJ talents. “Over the last year,” says Paul Gielen manager of Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, ”we have invested in the development of the resort’s food and beverage program and L.G. Smith’s is a prime example of the quality service and gastronomy we are providing guests, “.” The idea behind the redesign of L.G. Smith’s & Chop House is to evolve the steakhouse mentality and introduce a hip ambience that is both elevated and entertaining.”

Located within Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House opening hours have been extended from 6-11 pm, with a DJ every night from 6-9:30 pm. The restaurant is now open on Sunday’ from 11:00 am – 2:30 pm for L.G. Smith-styled brunch. To keep the party going afterhours, entertainment and a select menu is available at The Midnight Lounge until 6 am, which is an extension of L.G. Smith’s that overlooks the Crystal Casino.

For more information or reservations, visit

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