Monday, December 20, 2010

How you livin?

This was the scene during a sunny Sunday afternoon atop the island of St. Thomas. The picture was taken at halftime, right as the N.Y. Giants appeared to have opened an insurmountable lead on the Eagles.

Look at us ... so happy and full of life.

Then Mike Vick and that ass clown DeSean Jackson ruined everything, which resulted in the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.

We enjoyed mimosas and Brianna made home-made chili at our friend Frank's new condo in a part of the island referred to as Mountain Top. The title fits the scenery.

I had put back my second bowl of chili and was considering a ceremonial Jager bomb before it hit me: I had never been to Frank's new house during the day.

"Hey guys," I said. "Let's check out this view Frank keeps telling us about before we get all loopy (on an account of the short-lived Giants domination and the danger than lies within Jagermeister)."

Everyone, which included Frank, Brianna and I, agreed as the whole gang headed north.

His new place is sick. It has a crazy 180-degree view, as you can see clear across the island, over the golf course, way past Red Hook and with the British Virgin Islands on the horizon. He's so high up that you can spit off his balcony and with the right kind of wind, it will eventually hit a tourist at Megan's Bay.

After having a jolly time at a friend's swank digs, I couldn't help but reflect on the place where I put my head down. Strangely enough, I don't have a lot of pictures of my headquarters.

It's located right outside of Charlotte Amalie, up a bike-path trail, and when the power goes out, you can hear the generator from the nearby hospital kick in. And when it does, I always think about how many lives were just saved with the quick flick of a wrist. Or is it automatic? Maybe I should walk into the hospital and ask somebody.

I've been to the hospital twice since I moved down the block from it over nine months ago. One time was for a seizure. Not cool. And it left my wallet empty.

The other time was to shoot some sort of church revival seminar symposium meeting of some sort. My boss was in attendance so I showed up 10 minutes early and naturally left 20 minutes after it ended and everyone had left and I was alone in a dark room.

The cool thing was that when everyone left -- it was for lunch -- they gave me a ticket for the hospital cafeteria. I had to move on to another assignment so I tucked the golden ticket deep into my wallet.

"Save that ticket," my boss said. "The hospital has some of the best food on the island."

Believing everything she's told me for the last nine months, I made sure to put it next to the most important stuff in my wallet: in between my Men's Warehouse coupon and a fake $1,000 bill that has a picture of Ben Franklin winking.

"Ahh, the next rainy day," I thought. "But who will I go with?"

I know how some people won't eat by themselves in public because they feel weird. I actually enjoy it. People watching is the perfect dessert after a turkey and cheese sandwich goes down the hatch.

But in a hospital cafeteria? I don't care how good the food is, watching hospital folk while eating Salisbury steak or meatloaf may not work well with me. But I should try it out, eh? After all, I got the golden ticket...

But we'll have to save that social experiment for next time, boys and girls. In a blog post where I planned on showing pictures of my house and taking potshots at my lovely landlord, it ended with a somewhat entertaining story about churchy people, meatloaf and Benny Franklin.

How you like them apples? And by the way, the chili was crucial.

Over and out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The Wolverine has become quite smitten with the blog, which I enjoy.

"This is Aaron, he's the sports reporter at the Daily News," he says when he introduces me to his esteemed colleagues and local bar flies.

He usually asks me afterward if I approve of him introducing me to people like that.

"It's either that or I need to wear a sign over my head, right?"

Anywhoo, the Wolverine introduced me to another friend, Jerome, who is in the pornography business. Check that -- he's the porn talent. Yes, he and his lady friend decided to film themselves and sell the footage to porn companies for money.

So yes, he is a professional porn guy. I would like to call him 'porn star' but that's like calling professional football player Antrel Rolle a 'football star' which he is not.

Now I'm not trying to take away from Jerome's porn skills (I'm sure they are abundant) but he's no Ron Jeremy. Not yet. Watch out ladies of St. Thomas, a rising porn star is in the making here.

Wow. I have no idea where I was going with this. I think I just wanted to show off that I knew a porn star -- I mean, porn guy.

So there you go America. It doesn't matter if you're a sports writer, a porn actor or the New York Jets football coach who intentionally tripped a player during the game -- you're all OK in my book and that's all I have to say about that.

Forrest Gump ending? Can't go wrong.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hope for Haiti

A devastating earthquake, a cholera epidemic, and a near landfall miss of Hurricane Tomas has rattled the tension-filled country of Haiti to its core.

The ever-changing landscape of the current presidential election has brought many questions. The most important: Who will lead a country in such distress?

I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with one presidential candidate last week.

Charles Henry Baker ran for president in 2005 and is back again. When he answered his cell phone...

A) I was surprised he answered his cell phone.

B) I introduced myself quickly and he sounded very tired. But he didn't hold back.

"After the cholera outbreak, to screw the people of Haiti and take away their votes is criminal," Baker said in reference to the questionable preliminary voting results. "One day they said the results were fraudulent and the next day they accepted the results. How can you do that?"

The tension continues in Haiti as U.N. peacekeepers are against the ropes. They are trying to make sense of a presidential election where more than 12 candidates, including Baker, called it a sham before a single vote was counted.

He simply described for me all the basics you can imagine: ballot tampering, voters being turned away at polling stations and blatant corruption.

"We want the election annulled," said Baker, who joined other opposition candidates in a mission to prove the national polling was fraught with fraud. "We have asked people all over the country to stand up. Not only did we agree, we've asked every Haitian to take to the streets and believe in democracy."

Earlier in the week, Baker rode around the streets of Port-Au-Prince and spread the word. He had some important friends with him, too.

Wyclef John, who attempted to run for president but was denied, and Michael Martelly, a popular Haitian musician known as 'Sweet Micky' joined Baker in their pursuit of truth.

They rode around in the streets and spoke the truth. At the same time, they had to quell violent tempers and unite the people.

"We will continue to march all the way to the national place," Baker said. "And we will do it peacefully."

When was the last time you ever saw competing politicians in America join forces to get down to brass tax? Remember those 36 days in Florida when someone stole the 2000 U.S. Presidential election? I do. It still haunts me.

I sincerely hope Baker and the guy from the Fugees get a fair shake. I don't think that country can take any more setbacks. They certainly don't deserve it.

I didn't want to take up too much of Baker's time considering I heard a street protest going on in the background during our conversation. It was amazing that he could fit me into his schedule considering what he was in the midst of.

And because of that, I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.

I don't have too much experience talking with president candidates (from any country) so I ended the conversation the best way I knew how to.

"Keep up the good fight, Mr. Baker," I said.

Then I rolled my eyes at myself. Pure amateur hour.

I hung up the phone, stared out the window for a minute and then tried to make sense of my own existence. Here I am writing stories in the newspaper about sports. Mere games being played.

What's going to happen next? What's the score here?

Monday, December 6, 2010

No-talent ass clown

Let me rub my eyes and look around. Yup, I'm still on island.

It's been a crazy last few days and I apologize for the blogging lapse. Now that a severe Paradise Jam hangover has dissipated, I'm back in action and ready to get weird.

Speaking of the PJ, it generated close to $2 million for the USVI so you know I worked my ass off (I would link up the economy boost story I wrote but for some reason, it wasn't published online. Go figure).

The tourneys wrapped up about a week ago and consumed my Thanksgiving.

While my girlfriend celebrated with 39 friends grubbing on four different turkeys, I sat on press row for four consecutive Division I women's basketball games and didn't even get a whiff of cranberry sauce. It was pure bliss and the games were action-packed. No ... I'm being serious.

But on the final day of the 10-day tourney and as I was walking out of the gym faithfully with my over-heated laptop in tow, one of the tournament directors left me with a few kind words...

"Don't say anything mean about us in your blog," she said.

Instead of scurrying to the nearest pub like I did after every 10-hour day spent at the tourney, I was taken aback.

"Whaaaaa?" I asked, with those little thirsty white deposits sticking to the corners of my mouth.

"Oh," she said. "I'm a little embarassed to tell you this but I Googled you before we came down."

That's funny. I've googled myself a few times -- shut up, don't act like you've never done it -- and that no-talent ass clown in the NBA is the only thing that comes up.

He is one of few American-born white players in the Association but he still sucks. The "Aaron Gray" realm belongs to me.

Anyway, back to my story. Of course, I briefly chastised the tournament lady for stalking me online but I also thanked her for reading.

"It's always a pleasure running into a fan," I said.

So for the record, the 11th annual Paradise Jam men's and women's basketball tournaments held at the University of Virgin Islands from Nov. 19 through Nov. 27 were thrilling to witness. America's basketball elite gathered on St. Thomas for that memorable week (Don't forget: I ate no turkey, gravy or mashed potatoes) and a joyous time was had by any non-V.I. resident who shelled out $35 to get in the door.

Since then, I have been busy with other life projects. I'll get into those tidbits tomorrow because at the moment, I am done with work, tired and thirsty.

A sweet trio indeed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Peanut butter and (Paradise) jam

When is the only time pale-white people from Iowa, rowdy drunks from Jersey and Mohawks from Long Beach gather at one time on St. Thomas?

The answer to that question and many more is Paradise Jam.

It's a men's and women's Division I basketball tournament that is held at the local university for eight straight days.

And because a few out-of-towners have became privy to my blog, my official analysis on the annual event is that it's fantastic! I'm having a great time, enjoying the stateside basketball fans and cooperating with the helpful staff.

In reality, it's taking up each and every of my waking hours. I shouldn't complain. I was warned.

I also spoke on the phone this morning with University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, was given a high five from Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell (after he broke his wrist) and I've eaten pizza five days in a row.

Plus, my parents are in town and have so far been amazed by how many beers I can drink while on the beach and then report for duty like nothing happened.

The men's championship between Xavier and Old Dominion tips off in an hour so I better get my game face on. Or not.

Maybe I'll just grab a beer with the Seton Hall fans and see where it takes me. They're always good for a larf.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No more cancer sticks

So a smoking ban at restaurants and all public places went into effect this week on St. Thomas.

Yet, there I was. Sitting a the Shipwreck, devouring a 2/3 pound Mexican cheeseburger with a beer. Minding my own business. Looking straight ahead.

At the same time, on each side of me, drunken men were puffing away on cigarettes.

"Smoking, huh?" I asked.

"Yup," they sort of muttered (one of them actually just nodded).

"In a public place, huh?" I said before a refreshing swig of beer.

They didn't vocalize their answer but I can only imagine they were thinking, "Why not? Fuck off."

The news reporters at our newspaper are tearing the smoking ban rule apart. Even the jackass who wrote the actual law doesn't know what to think of it.

It reads that you can't smoke inside a public place or within 20 feet of said place. But if you go down Main Street -- where more than 100 jewelry and other tourist crap stores are located -- you can walk to the middle of the street and still be within 20 feet on each side of the shops.

"Does that mean you can't smoke at all on Main Street?" the diligent reporters asked only an hour after measuring the distance between shops on Main Street and almost getting run over.

"I'm not sure," the jackass said.

"What about the hookah lounge or at the cigar bars?" they follow up with.

"I'm not sure," the jackass says again.

And these dumb asses just spent a majority of their money and man hours this past year trying to get re-elected. For dumb-ass laws like this. Way to go, fellas!

As for me, I finished my burger. I drank my beer. I left a good tip and I drove to the high school football game I was covering that night.

I told my friend about the experience and he was privy to my situation. He knows the owner at Shipwreck and told me the smoking ban will go in effect there on the 15th, not this last week like the rest of the island.

Which would explain the parting shot I unknowingly absorbed.

"We got until Monday you sonofabitch," the smoker on my right muttered as I walked out of the bar. "This fucking guy thinks he knows everything..."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Black squirrels and pickle juice

Most of the tall, black guys I was strutting around the U.S Capitol Building with had never even left the rock we call St. Thomas.

The University of Virgin Islands men's basketball team made a four-day visit to our nation's capitol last weekend with a half-drunk, half-hung over sports reporter in tow. Check out the story.

The Buccaneers played three exhibition games against squads that wouldn't grace the headlines of the Washington Post unless a politician's son was aboard.

UVI did well. The team went 1-2 over the stretch and posted the program's very first win over an NCAA stateside team. The win came over Goucher College and the V.I. faithful -- all 13 in attendance -- went crazy after the landmark win.

But before the boys saw the basketball hardwood for the first time (just kidding, they have hardwood floors here but good luck on a functioning scoreboard), the group went on a tour of downtown D.C. to observe America in all its glory.

The main highlights, you ask? Touring the U.S. Capitol Building and observing all three branches of U.S. Government in action, of course.

But when I asked the guys in private what really blew their hair back, the answers were not what you expected.

One was very impressed with the hotel the team was stating at. Another was intrigued by how top-level security folks who carried around high-powered assault rifles in broad day light.

"It was like they were just carrying a duffel bag or something," he said. "All out in the open like that. That was crazy."

Meanwhile back on the island, my girlfriend texted me that she just heard gun shots.

One player was immersed by the squirrels. Now there are no squirrels on St. Thomas or at least I've never seen them. This player was amazed by the black squirrels in particular and made some sort of racial connection to the black squirrels playing in front of the White House and President Obama.

"It was the weirdest thing I ever saw," he said.

Most of the players toured the White House -- one was left out because his date of birth was 1989 and it was recorded as 1988 -- and their first experience on the Metro rail was uneventful.

The games were during the day which left me to by own devices when the sun went down. Now let's get down to the good stuff...

Of course there was great visits with my parents and delicious mom cooking (Fred and Joan will actually be making it to St. Thomas next week) and a joyous rendezvous with old friends inside the D.C., Northern Va and Baltimore sectors.

There was a blurry Annapolis pub crawl in there somewhere, a haircut from a Vietnamese woman at a random barber shop in Rockville, Md. and some late-night wrestling with a Sterling girl. One of my brothers must have taken pictures because there is photo evidence.

I ate a big bite hot dog from 7-11 at a horrendous hour, was introduced to a vodka and pickle juice shot, and wore pants for the first time in months.

The best part of the trip was when I dropped in on the new homeless-prevention center in Annapolis. Now I volunteered there for three years when it was called the Light House Shelter and was located inside a cramped building downtown.

For years, the good people there have been raising funds to build a new complex that could cater to their growing needs. I left Annapolis just before they broke ground on the new project and for a holiday gift, the staff decided to put a brick in the front sidewalk in my honor (along with many other decent souls). After a quick search, I discovered the brick and immediately shed a tear. Then I realized I haven't cried since the final episode of The Sopranos.

All in all, it was a successful trip. Good friends, pretty good basketball and an overall great time. Just like Big Chris, from Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: "It's been emotional."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Smoking the vote?

Just got off the phone with my esteemed colleague Jon Wass, who is also one of my top lieutenants on the West side.

It's Election Day and I was reminded of the fact because our newspaper, The Virgin Island Daily News, published the lone word "VOTE" in six-inch red font across the front page. With a tabloid paper, that usually delivers the message.

Also during my morning run, election folk saturated the already decaying sidewalk near my house which I found ironic. Should have brought my dogs and a smooth, straight path would have parted for me like Moses and the Red Sea.

Alright, enough religious talk. Back to Jonny Wass.

So my man voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana for recreational use inside a California old folks nursery home today. I guess that's where his district elected to cast votes. You would think it would be at a nearby school but California has enough problems.

The proposed law would allow persons to carry as much as an ounce of weed and it would also allow people to grow a small amount in their backyard. I forgot the dimensions of the weed garden allowed but it didn't matter: PEOPLE OPENLY GROWING POT IN THEIR BACKYARD??

It sounded to me like a fairy tale but we'll have to wait and see if this catches on like wild fire. (Sorry California, bad reference.)

"About a month ago, early voting numbers said it had a 51 percent chance of passing," a disillusioned Wass said. "But as of last night, there was a slide in the numbers and it may not fly."

With the legalization of weed on the ballot, one would think the number of college student voter turnout would be through the roof but the Wass said the numbers were stagnate. And that's even after Obama's initiative to entice young voters to come out. That, and weed.

"You would think the younger voters would have come out but politics in California is a funny thing," said the Wass, also referencing the government's stance on no alcohol on the beach.

After he cast his vote for ganja on Prop. 19 and skipped most of the social questions and surveys the government likes to throw at people because they're trapped inside a strange voting booth on their lunch break, the Wass made his exit.

On his walk back, an elderly woman, who presumably was living at the old folks home, was just sitting nearby enjoying a mid-afternoon spliff. As Jon casually walked by, the old woman exhaled marijuana smoke right in his face.

"It was on purpose," the Wass said.

He wasn't mad. Actually, quite the opposite. Jon tried his best to avoid the cloud and actually threw up a fist of revolution to the aging pothead to let her know, "Hey, I'm on your side, grandma."

The Wass then walked to his car and decided to give me a call because he knew someone on this twisted planet would appreciate a good marijuana story, with a hint of democracy blended in.

Well done, Mr. Wass. Power to the people.

Anyone got a light?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Life of luxury

I freaking love my car and that's why I shelled out close $1,700 to ship that bad boy to the Virgin Islands with me. In retrospect, it was not a good idea because it was costly, it came three weeks later than it was supposed to and the rental car swindler pointed out a phantom dent in the rear bumper that cost me an additional $525.

"Sorry sir, we have to go with the appraisal from our auto mechanic," the jackass told me.

"Yeah, but $525? Give me a hammer and 15 minutes and I'll make it right," I barked back.

He wasn't interested in my antics and had no mercy on my shrinking wallet.

But it's all good. Now I have one of the best cars on island. Gonna sell her for big bucks when ever I decide to leave this rock, too.

The only blemish on this gorgeous 2002 Ford Explorer Sport was that for years, I never had air conditioning. After a while, I learned to live with it. The window stayed down, a slight breeze was essential and my left forearm snagged plenty of sun rays.

But moving to the tropics without A/C in the car can be ruthless. Even if my commute to work is a whopping 2 minutes and 13 seconds (Yes, I timed it yesterday), it doesn't matter.

I wear a collar shirt to work everyday and occasionally I put on some khaki slacks. Big emphasis on the word occasionally. But still, I find myself wiping sweat off my forehead while walking into work and trying to prevent my shirt from sticking to my moist torso. Now this sounds like a sleazy novel.

Have you ever fell victim to post-shower sweat? It's the worst.

Well, those days are now over thanks to my amigo, Jerry. Around these parts, he's famously known as Wolverine.

Jerry wanted to borrow the extravagant Explorer the other day because he had hosted two couples from California who were docked on a cruise ship and we're on St. Thomas for about 10 hours of mischief.

Being the fabulous friend that I am, I obliged. He traded me up with his truck -- I don't recall the make or model -- but it was your classic island car. Everyone's got one. A couple dings here or there and sand permanently ingrained into the decaying upholstery.

But being the great friend he is, Jerry one-upped me. When he came to swap automobiles, he brought along two little mystery canisters, popped the hood and ended my air-conditioning hex.

Apparently, the system just needed to be charged so for the last day or so, I've been cruising St. Thomas in my own personal refrigerator. Max A/C dialed up and each fan pushed to the limit.

I may run out of gas tomorrow but that's why we got soldiers wandering around the dessert, right? Ouch. That was very uncalled for and I apologize.

Big ups to my cousin, Jeff Gray, a West Point graduate, who is currently kicking ass and taking names in Afghanistan.

And to think, I've been sitting here writing for the last 10 minutes with air conditioning on my mind...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Facebook love

Before I left for Mexico two weeks ago, I made a comment on a friend's facebook post moments before turning off my phone and traveling to the land of ridiculous roaming charges.

The phone remained off for four days, which set a new record for me.

When I returned, my gmail account was bloated with mostly crap. Except for this delicacy my friend forwarded to me:

"Aaron Gray's comment on your wall yesterday was disgusting and inappropriate. If it was supposed to be amusing, it missed the mark. I saw it as a sign of a weak mind trying to express itself. There are young impressionable people using this site. I'd like to know how my friends and family feel."

Since reading this, I have had a grin on my face from ear to ear. It just brightened my day and on St. Thomas, it's already very sunny outside.

I don't want to bore you with the details of this person's rant. What I said probably was very inappropriate. I don't deny that -- I actually celebrate it.

So think twice next time you post something on facebook. Or don't think at all and wait for the hilarious facebook email alert messages to come in. Then share them with friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Neltjeberg Nudity

Unfortunately, there are not too many pictures to go with this post and for good reason.

So I went swimming naked yesterday at a secluded beach. I stumbled upon it in the middle of the afternoon and I'd say it was the highlight of the day.

Not exactly sure why I dropped my bathing suit. It was totally spontaneous and I didn't even put sun block on my unmentionables.

This is me trying to rationalize my actions:

Maybe the thought of those European women sun-bathing topless at the pool in Mexico last week was still in my psyche. The night we got back, a friend of mine told me about his Hedonism adventures in Jamaica and his giggling accounts were still echoing in my ear.

The beach was at Neltjeberg Bay on the north said of St. Thomas and it was as beautiful as I had imagined. Several weeks ago, I was dragged there with friends well after midnight for a bond fire party and I couldn't really see a thing.

It was my day off -- sort of -- so I decided to go for it. After an odd turn off the road (the turn landmark is a blue FEMA tent tarp that was originally used in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina), the only thing between me and this beach was about 1.5 miles of meandering dirt roads that really made me question my motive in the first place.

After I fought through those logical red flags, I emerged near the water and parked literally steps away from the gentle waves.

When I first got there, a group of old-timers were grilling out and sitting on lazy boy chairs someone had dragged to the beach and left. I found a better spot down the beach that had some patio furniture near a rope swing hanging from a palm tree.

The old folks left to catch an early bird special and then I had the entire beach to myself. My bathing suit came off and I started to frolic down the shore with two pretty girls, who also went nude.

With my dogs, Hunter and Sydney, off their leases and liberated of their sexual tensions, I knew I could roam nude until they barked at any newcomers. They were like junkyard guard dogs but they were guarding a different kind of junk -- the junk in the my trunk.

It was the first time I had ever done anything like that and perhaps not my last. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday so I started to ponder the available windows to go skinny-dipping around island. If you think about it like that, it's pretty wide open.

Was I really that wrong? Just a decent, naked American walking around in the water, holding his iPhone and taking pictures of his problems on this end.

When I met up with my girlfriend later that night for dinner at Banana Tree, I told her of my exploits and she rolled her eyes. I wasn't sure if she was embarrassed of jealous.

Coincidentally, we made plans for a beach trip Saturday. Which beach, you ask? TBA.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wedding season ends on high note

We live in an interesting time. Only in this era can a travel-weary individual make a quick zip to Mexico and the only way his mother could find out if he was OK is if she saw an update on his blog.

Hey mom, I'm back. It was a great time. Can't wait to tell you about the buffet spread.

Wedding Season 2010 is officially over for me and just in time because my wallet is running thin. A four-wedding, three-month run that stretched from California to New Jersey to Mexico was a complete success.

And I'm glad to say I didn't check a bag once. Well, not until I bought a bottle of tequila -- with the worm in it so I think it's called Mezcal -- for an island chum, who watched my dogs while I was away. Had to check that bag because of the liquid but the good people at American Airlines did not charge me. Salud!

The weddings could not have been more different.

During the festivities in California, I was passed out inside my rental car for most of it. No, not because I was drunk. Get your mind out of the gutter. I must have picked up some nasty stomach bug that alerted the attention of Brianna's mom, who's a nurse and considered calling an EMT.

I told her the S*** would burn off and it did. I came back to life a few hours after the reception at a local brewery, which was unfortunate because they named one of their micro-brews that day after the lovely bride and groom. Salud!

In the Jersey wedding, I rubbed shoulders with the Cake Boss, from the reality TV show. Or it may have been his brother ... alright, this time you can scold me for being drunk.

I wore a nice suit, moonlighted as a wedding photographer, introduced my girl to the extended family, and had a chance to catch up with these lovely ladies...

To the left is my gorgeous Aunt Ann O'Dea and on my other shoulder is the fabulous Aunt Fran Gillespie. Both are younger sisters to my beautiful 'Nanny' and from what I was told, they are both huge fans of the blog.

Well, there you go, ladies. You are officially on the blog and therefore, you are now famous. Salud!

Now in Mexico, things were a little different. They always are when you venture South of the border.

Now, this wedding was in Cancun and I had never been to Mexico except for a few blurry experiences in Tijuana. We arrived late and our cab ride was about an hour so we had time to check out the sites.

The strip in Cancun looked a lot like Vegas, except the extravagant water fountains were replaced with late-night burrito stands.

We stayed at an amazing resort and if you're into that kind of stuff -- it was my first ever all-inclusive stay but definitely not my last -- check out their web site.

First of all, many congrats to Dana & Doug for their exciting union and for throwing the week-long shindig that was condensed into a 72-hour freakout for me.

Food, booze, sailing, pool, pass-out nap, repeat.

Some how I forgot to include the crazy amount of tequila that was thrusted down my throat. Another big shout out to Edgar, our Mexican tequila stalker, who probably doesn't know what a blog is but was always there with a tray of tall shots and a smile.

I danced like an idiot at the wedding. For some reason, I crushed a can of beer in the middle of the dance floor, which sprayed on several of the ladies' beautiful dresses. Sorry. I will not pay for the dry cleaning.

The shenanigans went down just this past weekend and some of the prime-time players are still soaking in the lazy river. That means many hilarious photos will soon appear on facebook but for now, this pic survived the trip and was taken on our last night in country.

Notice the water bottle (I was still in the grips of a very serious tequila hangover) and the attire compared to the other weddings. Of course, my beautiful girlfriend stole the show because of her amazing dresses and the weather cooperated like I predicted. Flip flops reigned supreme and I didn't even pack a tie. My bad.

To all the good peps, it was great to see everyone and many best wishes to all the newlyweds.

Now it's back to the grind in paradise. If there is such a thing. Salud!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mexico bound

My good friends Dana and Doug are getting married and they chose Mexico for their destination wedding this weekend.

There is tequila inside my crystal ball.

Unfortunately, I live in a "destination" and the travel agent in charge of the wedding laughed when I asked if I could float a raft to Mexico instead of flying up to Miami and then back down to Cancun.

The layover in Miami is almost seven hours so it's going to take all day to travel halfway across the Caribbean Sea, which isn't that far. Just ask Elian Gonzalez. I wonder what that kid has been up to? Oh, look. He's either become a solider for Cuba or a boy scout. That's fantastic.

Well, I guess it could be worse. I could have been trapped inside a Chilean mine for the last 65 days. Actually, I will use that ill-timed justification for any upcoming setbacks on the Mexico trip.

Do you think they have Taco Bell in Cancun? I hope so.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Run for fun

My old friend Isaac visited me last week and it had me thinking about the shenanigans we used to pull back in the day. Nothing too crazy. It's not like we alerted the attention of the local authorities or crashed any church parties.

But we did run cross country in high school. I still cringe when I look at pictures of our skimpy red uniforms loosely covering our prepubescent bodies.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I covered a local cross-country race on St. Thomas this afternoon. In between stories about a St. Croix woman hooking a 560-pound swordfish and the weird smell that came from a docked cruise ship, I had a chance today to reconnect with my cross-country brethren.

The bus schedule was messed up so only half the teams showed up. Therefore, they combined the junior-varsity and varsity races. Just chalk it up to the amazing organizational skills that every islander is born with.

Took a few cool pictures. Since they'll probably never grace the pages of The Daily News, I figured I'd put them on the blog and give them some space to breath.

Look at those kids to the right cheering for their classmates. If I had support like that back in the day, I might have actually won a race.

This was taken a second before the start of the elementary school race. About four kids fell flat on their face and I couldn't help but laugh right in their (flattened) faces.

I'm not joking, I saw a kid cheat right after I snapped this one. Maybe he was confused. It didn't matter, he was one of the only white kids competing. I saw him throwing up later.

Monday, October 11, 2010

S*** will burn off

The saying applies to just about everything down here...

Clouds in the morning? Afternoon hangover? Mosquito bites on your bum?

The basic reaction is, "Not to worry, s*** will burn off." It's more of a glass-half-full approach to any predicament. It serves me well down here in the tropics and I've never been wrong with it.

That is, until my homeboy Isaac and his wife, the Rubster (a.k.a Ruby), came down for a week-long visit.

Before they made the no-free-food plane journey down here, the Rubster got on facebook and asked if the weather was going to be OK for their visit. I thought she was taunting me and basically ignored her inquiry.

Little did I know that the good people known as Meteorologists were calling for some showers our way. No biggie, I thought. It always showers here for like 10 minutes, the sun comes out and then you're fine. In other words, the S*** will burn off.

But for Isaac and the Rubster, we got about two good days in and then Subtropical Storm Otto, which later turned into a hurricane, crashed their party and there was nowhere to hide but their Marriott hotel room and the occasional visit to the hotel lobby bar.

Four straight days of gloomy days, flooded homes (no taxation without representation) and several inches of rain. It was the 5th highest rain total to ever fall upon the USVI at one time.

So in essence, the S*** never really did burn off. Well, not until the morning of their scheduled flight home.

Much love to those kids, who tried frantically to re-schedule their flights and adjust their reservations. I mean, it's not like they had anything else to do cramped up in a hotel room while us Island hacks had to report for duty every day.

I suppose they could have watched the Teen Mom marathon on MTV.

But for the record, we did get one outstanding day on St. John with my boy Frank, who also had a killer birthday party that lasted two (plus) days on Peterborg. Frank then escaped to Puerto Rico to hide from the emerging storm and the brutish reality that is a sunless St. Thomas.

So much depends on the weather? Scott Weiland is a wise man.

Almost 12 inches of rain engulfed this island and the runoff made pristine beaches like Brewers Bay look like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

What do you do in paradise when the sun goes on hiatus?

I'm really not sure.

I'm actually sick of thinking about it. Oh well. Shit will burn off.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wolverine spanks it

I've mentioned my island friends Jerry and Julie a few times on the old bloggy-blog and they recently revealed to me their Halloween costume plans.

With his dashing good looks, muscular physique and appropriate hair style, Jerry will go as the comic book character Wolverine. His girlfriend, Julie, a former magazine cover girl, has more conservative plans and will dress up as America's sweetheart, Sarah Palin.

I only mention this because as we dined on barbecue pork chops and sipped Budweisers near Mandhal Bay last week, Jerry told me he finally got the video on YouTube.

"The video" is classic footage. It documents what it's like to live here and have some fun.

Some may think we are jackasses -- you are correct in that assessment.

How do I set up the scene here for you? Well, it's one of those times where I can look around a crowded event on St. Thomas and I am the only white person there (it happens much more than you would think).

I got some free tickets to a concert being thrown by some communications company that was opening up shop in the territory. So what better way to debut your business than booking some local bands, shooting off some fireworks, setting up a liquor tent and letting the good times roll?

Well, Mr. Wolverine dipped into the grandpa's cough syrup, somehow jumped on stage with this voluptuous female performer and I'll let the video explain the rest.

Before you click on the link, be sure to bring the volume on your computer down. Julie was so proud of her man, she decided to cheer like a groupie during his entire performance. Also, the last four minutes of the video is the fireworks show and footage of the local music here if you're into that sort of thing...


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RIP birkenstocks

Since college, I have liberally enjoyed the comfort of my birkenstock sandals. I think I actually stole my first pair from my younger brother. They were used at the time and I believe he stole them from a beach friend so that's just gross to think about.

My mother bought me another pair while I was in college. I was visiting her in the OBX and I brought my old, ragged pair with me to the birkenstock store. The merchant couldn't believe the antiques I walked in on and he actually asked if he could have my old pair so he could display them in the store.

Feeling quite proud of myself, I said OK. I think my mother got a discount on the new pair.

After seven summers of being a groovy lifeguard at the local water park and countless granola concerts in the mud, my current pair has seen better days.

Exhausted with my sporty foot fashion, my girlfriend actually instructed her mother to purchase me Under Armour sandals for Christmas. It was a tough choice. Stay true to my hippie college upbringing and ignore Mrs. Grantham's gracious gift or just throw them away and give in to a new generation.

It got to the point where Brianna did not allow me to bring them in the house. Covered in sand and something sticky, they sat near the front door of my home for the first eight weeks I lived on St. Thomas.

The funeral was scheduled for Oct. 15 but they didn't make it. I even burned that old Boyz II Men song so I could play it during the service.

Hurricane Earl swept through here several weeks ago and left my front yard and porch in disarray. Leaves and tree branches everywhere and my birks took a significant blow.

While cleaning up the porch last week, I pulled up a board with debris and ants all over it. Like discovering the witch's curvy legs under the house in Wizard Of Oz, I found my birkenstocks.

They fought for as long as they could. I tossed them into a black trash bag that was already overflowing with beer bottles and empty tiki torch fuel cartridges.

I took a picture of the birks during their final hour but I can't post it on the blog. It just hurts too much. I'm still in mourning.

Before I threw the casket (a dirty, black trash bag) into the dumpster later that day, I took a moment to reflect on all the adventures I had with those comfortable bastards.

Rest In Peace, birkenstocks. You will be missed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Me, Mike and Marcus

Michael Vick is the same age as I, therefore, we went to college at the same time. When I was a freshman at Radford University in 1998, Mr. Vick was a unknown at Virginia Tech enjoying his redshirt season with the Hokies.

He did a little drug dealing on the side. I knew a guy, who knew a guy ... you know what I mean.

In 1999, I bet with a college roommate that Vick and the Hokies would lose the national championship to Florida State in Nokia Sugar Bowl. They lost and I won $100.

In 2004, while working for the Daily News-Record, I drove down to Blacksburg, Va. and wrote a story about the thug version of Michael -- younger brother Marcus -- and how his potential had exceeded his older brothers. Marcus could barely put together complete sentences in front of a room full of reporters.

Two weeks later, Marcus was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old Blacksburg girl and after a few more run-ins with the law, he was suspended indefinitely from the team in 2006. He never played another down for the Hokies. So it goes.

In 2007, Michael Vick got caught with the whole dog-fighting thing in Newport News, Va. and was suspended from the NFL without pay. He went to jail and lost millions. So it goes.

Today, the Philadelphia Eagles named Michael Vick as their starting quarterback, replacing the concussed Kevin Kolb.

Today, Marcus Vick activated a pager ($10/month) in Newport News, Va. and started his new job as a newspaper delivery boy.

As for me, I'm still writing sports. And trying to stay clear of drug dealers, vicious dog fights and underage sex feigns.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Voting for a good time

At about the same time the James Madison University football team walked into Blacksburg, Va. and shocked Virgina Tech, I found myself far away from the rest of the world on a 28-foot power boat in the Caribbean Sea near Tortola.

Do you see the connection? Good, because I don't.

Aside from serving as a monster day in college football, last Saturday was also when the Democratic and Republican Party Primary elections were held on the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And being the good local citizens we are, the Brugos Brothers and I (along with our significant others) loaded up the coolers, made sure our voting registration was not even close to being up to date and we headed out to sea.

If the local leaders were going to be decided on this U.S. territory, I wanted to be as far away as possible and that meant cruising the waters near the British Virgin Islands.

We had enough beer to feed a small army and some Cool Ranch Doritos to boot. Our boat captain, Alex, was a quiet fellow but he seemed to open up as the party picked up steam. Maybe it was the vodka he brought along for himself or the massage he received from the only single patron aboard the vessel.

"I'm single, I don't give a f***, I'll make out with him," I think were her actual words of justification.

Anywhoo, I'm getting ahead of myself.

We cruised past St. John and right into the Tortola Harbor. It had been over 10 days but I saw at least three boats still overturned from Hurricane Earl. It was obvious the BVIs got rubbed a little harder than St. Thomas during the storm.

We were at sea for no longer than an hour and I had to break out the old passport to prove it. Got my first stamp since a Bahamas freakout in 2008 that featured these fine gentlemen...

We hiked a rock cluster near the shore, did a little snorkeling and a lot of drinking. One of the most memorable parts of the trip had to be our visit to this fine establishment called the Williams Thornton Floating Bar & Restaurant near Norman Island.

The Willie T has a rich history of culture, sophistication and naked women.

Yes, that's right. At the old Willie T, nudity is more prevalent than their loaded dining menu, which consisted of only chicken fingers when we made our afternoon visit. We ordered four plates.

According to the Willie T web site: "Ski shots and body shots heat up the bar area a little later in the day. It can get pretty rowdy at times but fun is had by all."

We did several rounds of ski shots but the latter I can not attest to. Don't worry, babe. I won't post the pictures (wink, wink).

Just before the sun went down, we made the flat-out burn back to St. Thomas and the crew had some dinner at Island Time Pub. Momentum on the day started to slow -- we'd left the Red Hook docks around 9 a.m. -- but I didn't call it quits.

Several days before, I had been invited to a Beach Party "Burning Man" blowout at Neltjeberg Beach and I grabbed some second wind after I demolished an ITP calzone.

I had never been to Neltjeberg before and making my debut at midnight on a Saturday was not a great idea. About two miles of very bumpy, dirt road stood between the North Side of St. Thomas and the actual beach and I must have received drunken directions from about five different people.

In the end, it was the Maps application on my iPhone that assisted me to and from the beach. At the party, I got to party with my boy Jerry, and his girl, Julie. The bond fire was epic and the DJs kept the party rolling.

I finally made it back home around 5 a.m. There was talk about watching the sun come up but I called it quits on a Saturday to remember in paradise.

The next day, some local politicians were celebrating in the street for unknown reasons and I awoke just in time to watch my beloved Giants beat up the Panthers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


When I showed up with my girlfriend at her cousin's estrogen-fueled bachelorette party, I found myself inside a room surrounded my women sipping booze out of plastic martini glasses, giggling and swapping panties with one another.

As you can imagine, I exited the premises quickly.

The sun was about to go down and I was in California. La-la land. The best type of California.

The night before, back on St. Thomas, my friend Jerry told me all about how he and his girlfriend used to work/play at this great bar in Long Beach. He repeated over and over again that I should visit this establishment during my stay on the Left Side and that he knew all the bartenders and blah, blah, blah ... you know how those conversations play out.

Suddenly, I decided his drunken banter would become that night's game plan.

Remembering the name of the bar was the first step. I remembered it, which was a surprise. It was an omen. I looked up the address on my iPhone, plugged it into the GPS and found out the bar was about 10 miles away from the ovaries-only party.

The best part was that as the sun melted into the horizon, I sped down the Pacific Coast Highway at top speeds and felt absolutely content for the first time in days.

My arrival at the Belmont Brewing Company was poorly timed. The bar was packed to the brim, the bartenders were swamped and the TVs were saturated with USC and 49er football game coverage.

I hung back in the corner and sipped my stout until Stephen, the bartender I was supposed to ask for, earned a moment of freedom.

When he did and I introduced myself by dropping Jerry and Julie's names, I instantly became the toast of the town. Apparently, Jerry and Julie were legends at the Belmont as each and every employee eventually approached me with questions about them and St. Thomas.

"Is Julie still drinking (enter oblivious alcoholic shooter name here)?" asked one bartender and "St. Thomas? Why the hell did they move there anyway?" another inquired.

Being the good sport I am, I consumed all of their favorite shooters in celebration of Julie (or perhaps the mere mention of her name). I also became their robotic tour guide to the Caribbean while showing them photos from my phone and sandal tan lines on my feet.

Many good stories were told and a joyous time was had by all. I got to know a Mexican couple sitting next to me and a former boxing coach from South America, who refused to talk about boxing.

But as I began to notice less patrons visiting the actual bar and a rowdy bunch of hooligans gathering in the high tops nearby, I decided to plan my exit strategy.

"No way dude, not yet -- the after-hours crew is just getting started," Stephen said while he motioned toward the tattooed-laced bruisers.

After-hours? What the hell is that? I explained to them that on St. Thomas, there are no "after hours" and no open-container laws.

"We drink when we want and at all hours," I said.

"Bullshit," Stephen snapped back, taking the Caribbean boast personally.

Just then I thought I saw the only female in the tough-guy group try to brake a bottle over her head. Maybe I was fed too many pink panthers or purple people eaters? Not sure. I thanked Stephen and left the bar before I could figure it out.

Being engulfed by an emerging mob with a belly full of girly drinks didn't bode well for me.

On the way home, I had the Classic Rock tunes going hard. So loud that they almost drowned out Maggie and the GPS instructions. Luckily, my hotel, which I hadn't even checked into yet, was only five miles away.

Another flat-out burn down the Pacific Coast Highway to safety. Security. And the late-night burrito drive-thru line.

I love me some California.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hurricane Earl nips USVI

Before I forget to do it, I better post some Hurricane Earl photos. I know, the storm hit last week but I was cleaning off my desktop and you know how that goes.

The eye of the storm came within 65 miles of the USVI so we did not get a direct hit but there was some damage. Like I said, it's a week later and there are still residents without power. What a world?

As soon as the power went out at our house the day of the storm, Brianna, my two dogs and I went to my nearby office, which had power from a generator. From there, I picked up by friend Thomas and we drove around St. Thomas chasing hurricane all day. It was a good time, I didn't die and here are the photos to prove it...

This guy works for the Water and Power Authority on the island. The confusion on his face could be felt by all residents in the days after the storm.

The storm surge consumed multiple picnic tables at Magens Bay on the north side of the island.

That's Thomas sawing a tree that fell and blocked our path on a road near Peterborg. Thomas never leaves home without a saw.

Local idiots tied up smalls boats and other vessels to trees and whatever they could find.

I took this picture only a few hours into the storm. It's a 150-year-old tree that fell near one of my favorite bars on the island, the Shipwreck Tavern. After I took the picture, I noticed the bar tenders were hauling away crates of booze in one hand and drinking a beer with the other. Classic.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"A fart in the wind"

That's right, us tough Caribbean bastards chewed up Hurricane Earl and spit him right back out. But before he left, he politely made sure to leave a couple inches of rain, a few downed trees and power lines and many frustrated citizens without power.

Our homestead only lost power for about 15 hours or so. We're located near the hospital so we got the "hook up" around 9 a.m. this morning. After the lights came back on, I flushed the toilet for no particular reason and made sure to enjoy ice cubes with my morning milk.

It made me laugh today because my boy Nick is the properties manager at a building just outside of Washington D.C. and his whole sector was without power for three whole days following a "summer storm" last month. What is that anyway? A summer storm? And what the hell does a properties manager do?

Let me quickly introduce you to Hurricane Earl. He likes pepperoni pizza, staying up late and long walks on the beach. You better get to know him soon because he's about to crash the party at my old stomping grounds -- the Outer Banks, N.C. -- in a matter of days. He's supposed to cruise up the coast from there pummeling the Northeast along the way.

So to all you state-siders: Enjoy! The USVI was like Earl's J.V. soccer game before the main event. And he's not going to pull any punches.

The eye of the storm came within 65 miles of St. Thomas and from what I've gathered from talking to the pros, we dodged a bullet...

"I've been here for 27 years and after Hurricane Hugo, every other storm that comes through here looks like a fart in the wind," said a high school basketball coach I was talking to today about a totally unrelated manner.

The storm is supposed to grow in strength before it makes its U.S. landfall. And then, when that happens, I'll be that annoying jackass on facebook asking stupid questions like "I heard you guys are supposed to get a hurricane or something like that, is that true?"

My parents were in Corolla, N.C. today to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Mother said lines at the grocery store were long and hurricane mania was spreading fast.

That's right, America. Be afraid. Let the fear consume you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No where to play

Before I moved to St. Thomas, I was the senior content editor for a high school sports web site in Baltimore. Great job and it's a great place. I know the Bmore folks go cukoo for their lacrosse but football is a pretty big deal there, too.

"Yeah! Crabcakes and Football. That's what Maryland does!"

Wedding Crashers was a great movie.

So right about now, I know football is in full swing as two-a-days and full pads are the norm in Maryland and probably just about every other state in America. Here on this little tropical island, football preseason is a little different and sometimes non-existent.

I wrote this story about a public school on St. Thomas that unexpectedly has zero athletic facilities at the moment. The kids are ready to work out but it's not going to happen. Remember, this is a public school. Its rival school down the road has a field -- it's laughable -- but they have something and can at least afford practices.

Allen Iverson: "We're talking about practice..."

The story was published Friday in the V.I. Daily News. Are you ready for some football? Apparently, Kean High School is not.

It's kind of sad.

In the words of the great gossip queen Helen Lovejoy:

"Won't someone please think of the children?!"

I took this picture a couple weeks ago. It was during the first practice of a junior flag football league St. Thomas debuted this summer.

If things stay the same way on this island, when these kids get into high school, they'll be twiddling their thumbs come football season.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Exploring the West Side

Sometime between my dog violently rolling around in horse manure and jumping off rocky cliffs into crystal clear water, I realized how much I love Saturdays here.

Well, I love Saturdays during the summer here. Can be relaxing and lazy days -- if you want them to be.

When the sports scene heats up again this fall, I'm sure my Saturday afternoons will be consumed with covering Anti-Violence marches, tug-of-war competitions and wing eating contests.

But this past Saturday was spent in Bordeaux, which is on the west side of St. Thomas, a place rarely visited by humans. I heard Voodoo is practiced there and it was the first setting selection for the second season of Jersey Shore but they passed and ended up in Miami.

From some random V.I. tourist web site: "Located west of the airport, this area doesn't get many visitors. Residents are a rarity too; just around 5% of the population lives out West. One main road weaves north then south through this off-the-beaten-track area, a smattering of houses here and there. A few side roads lead to beaches that deliver a jackpot of solitude; natural, remote, the perfect setting for daydreams of shipwrecks and castaway fantasies."

Plain and simple, the trails and beaches on the West side are amazing. My friend and fellow thrill-seeker, Thomas, is an expert of the area and knows the ins and outs of many of the dirt trails. A 4-wheel truck is needed along with a sense of adventure.

Some aqua socks and a flask full of whiskey doesn't hurt, either.

This is the group that went out for some rock scrambling and cliff jumping last week. My boy Jerry and his Julie were involved. Thomas is the red-headed fellow holding Fatty, the small dog. Del is a cool cat I met the other week over a few cocktails at Betsys in Frenchtown and he brought two more friends. My girl Brianna is the sexy lady all the way to the right.

Where am I? I took the picture. Stop asking so many questions.

As you can see, the terrain is filled with rocks and there are plenty of little cliffs off to the right. We got to this particular spot after driving down a dirt trail for about a mile and half.

We've brought an underwater camera to past excursions and once my lazy friends put the photos on facebook, I'll be able to share them with you.

Nothing like seeing the expression on someone's face as they're jumping off a cliff into an uncertain depth of water with crazy swells crashing all around you.

Until then, I'll just leave you with another scenic shot I took after trying to clean the horse poop off my dogs back.