Sunday, February 28, 2010

My new (temporary) digs

Ask and you shall receive. Here's a video link to see where I have been staying for the last 12 days. Now remember, it's not my permanent place of residence, just until the end of the month but I wanted to brag about it anyway. Enjoy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sports on the island

After learning of my new employment on the island, many of you have questioned the actual sports that are played here. To answer most inquiries: YES they do have cricket here and NO I haven't covered it yet but am waiting for that elusive assignment.

The one thing I have learned over my first five days on the sports beat is that no really cares about start times. I have showed up each day for games that we published in our newspaper's schedule as starting at 4:30 p.m. Each time, I showed up about 15 minutes early to discover both teams there, coaches, referees, cheerleaders, the whole shebang.

So when are we going to start the game?

Once again, I'm reminded of Island Life. For the last five days, I've documented the actual start times and the average margin of tardiness is about 50 minutes. I'm not joking. And at the same time, no one inside the gym really cares.

Some sports are just completely backwards here. For example, they have a decent facility for the baseball little league teams and behind the right-field fence, they have two really nice batting cages with mechanical pitching machines in it. Yet, half the kids who took grounders in the outfield did not have gloves and were going at it with bare hands.

This particular team I took pictures of had two female coaches and zero female players. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love women. I just thought it was a little odd.

To top it off, I drove to another field less than a mile away and caught an actual game. The stands were packed. There were more spectators at this little league baseball game than the varsity basketball game I covered the day before.

Two parents got into a hysterical screaming match after the game. It was so ridiculous that the losing coach got involved and didn't want to be interviewed because he was too ticked off. The young players gathered afterward and watched the tempers of their elders reach new levels.

I later found out the debate was over good sportsmanship and what is actually considered positive reinforcement for the players.

Go figure.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hula hoop girl returns

I just dropped off Brianna at the airport. She has to get back to Maryland to finish moving out of her apartment and she comes back in two weeks with her sexy self and my dogs.

While we were checking her bags, we saw Hula Hoop Girl!

She was holding up the line near the check-in desk so I wasn't sure it was her. When she turned around, we had confirmation. But she did not have her hula hoop...

In a text message from Brianna moments later: "She left her hula hoop on the island, apparently she plans to return. And she still stinks."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First day on the job

Some of the editors at the paper warned me about "Island Life" and how things move a little slower here than stateside. I was expecting and sort of looking forward this way of living. Who needs to work fast all the time? Not this guy. Easier said than done.

So when I left my cozy beach villa to head to the newsroom for my first day, island life caught up with me very quickly. About 300 yards down the road, a construction crew had accidentally knocked down a power line shutting of the electricity to the east side of St. Thomas and the entire island of St. John. To sweeten the deal, the power line fell across the glorified bike trail that also serves as the only way to get downtown.

"Your first day on the job?" one of the construction workers asked with a heavy accent. "Whoa. This may take a minute..."

Tony Soprano once said every problem usually presents an opportunity to also gain. Leave it to my Jersey mafia hero to speak words of wisdom to me while in a pinch. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few pics for two reasons (1) this was probably news worthy and (2) I wanted to provide proof to my boss for my tardiness on Day One at the Virgin Islands Daily News.

I asked my gf to take my car back to the villa, finagled a ride into town with another construction worker and made it to the office with minutes to spare and a somewhat adventurous first day story already intact.

The guy's truck I got a ride in should be featured in the A&E show "Hoarders." As I climbed in he apologized for the mess and asked me to make myself comfortable.

For me, it was a joy ride.

He honked and waved at every single person we passed on the side of the road as if they were old friends. He honked louder for the attractive women. We listened to a local political talk show on the radio and he chimed with his opinion from time to time. I could barely understand his muttering but I kept nodding in his favor.

When he dropped me off in front of my office, a McDonald's to-go bag fell out along with a few semi-crushed empty cans of soda and beer that had been marinating in the debris near my feet fell out of the car. He sped off before I had a chance to properly thank him. I turned around, looked at front door and took a deep breath.

What an entrance, I thought.

Turns out, they used the downed power line photo on an inside page as a stand alone with a long caption. I filed my first story before they even assigned me my new email address. I finished with three bylines by the end of the day and a photo credit that will forever serve as another eye-opener to "Island Life."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Just a few snafus

Here's a small list of embarassing things that have happened during my short time in the VI. I probably wouldn't reveal any of this to my new co-workers but I feel zero regret plastering it on to a public blog.

- almost hit a car (twice) during my first drive on the island with my new boss in the back seat.

- brought multi-colored towel to the Ritz resort and was asked to leave beach area where only crisp white towels are laid down for guests.

- got charged $30 for exactly six bottles of locally brewed beer at Red Hook bar. It must be the beard.

- accidently left headlights on during 5-minute storm so car battery died while parked in Wendy's parking lot. Too embarassed to call co-workers for help so I started to ask randoms waiting in drive-thru line. No one had jumper cables; tow truck driver charged me $40.

- stayed up until 3 am the night before my first day of work. I wasn't worried about getting adjusted, first impressions. Nope. I somehow came across the first season DVD of "Friday Night Lights."

Don't judge me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Setting up shop

I felt like a highly-paid NFL free agent when our newspaper's publisher took me to my temporary home on the island. The plan was to put me and Brianna (beautiful girlfriend) up in a hotel for a week until I got my act together.

When we pulled up to this posh villa (not sure exactly what a villa is but it sounds cool) on the beach my jaw dropped. Turns out, my executive editor was out of town and we were supposed to hold down the fort. It really was one of the nicest places I've ever stayed so I wondered if all new hires also got the star treatment.

"Nope," Jason, the publisher, said. "You guys lucked out. Just good timing."

I'll link up some luxurious pictures to the blog as soon as I figure out how to do so on my iPhone (my lone source of Internet service on the island so far).

During my first full day on the island, I opened a PO Box, a bank account, direct deposit and started to adjust to driving on the left side of the road. Yes, that's right. I'm not disoriented, drunk. They drive on the left here. Traffic lights are replaced by short horn blasts and walking on the side of most roads is a death wish.

Last night at a Red Hook bar, a typical surfer local named Joe informed me there are no open container laws and a gallon of island rum costs 8 dollars. Very interesting. That kind of info was not documented in the touristy VI magazine I read on the plane.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hula hoop girl

We weren't inside the Charlotte, NC airport for longer than 15 minutes before we ran into our first character.

She was wearing huge white grandma sunglasses, you could tell she hadn't washed her hair in days and her body was sprawled across three seats in the waiting area. She was lightly snoring and her tattoo-laced belly was exposed.

She could have been waiting for a number of flights but when the VI flight was announced, she sprung to life and sure enough, got in the line right behind me.

I reconized her scent. It was like waiting in the beer line at a Widespread Panic concert.

We boarded this huge plane and guess who grabbed a seat directly behind me. It was like the director of a movie called "Uncomfortable Flight Experiences" pointed at the girl, which was her que for a coughing tirade that attracted everyone's attention.

"I'm sorry," she said in a raspy voice. "It's my sinuses."

I gave her two Ibuprofens and a Tylenol PM for good measure. She was very grateful, stopped coughing and passed out moments later.

I was the hero of the plane.

Right before we touched down in paradise three hours later, she had gone to the bath room and completely transformed her appearance: red lip stick, a tropical scarf around her nappy locks and a short skirt replaced her warm-up pants. She was alive again and smiling from ear to ear.

At baggage claim, she stayed close and asked if we could watch her carry-on while she retrieved her lone checked item: a homemade stripped hula hoop. When I called her out, I shit you not, she started to twirl the thing right next to the conveyor belts and yuppie tourists.

The newspaper's publisher actually picked me up at the airport and I used the hula hoop encounter as an ice breaker as we lugged bags to his car. He snickered at the story but laughed out loud when we passed her sitting on the bus stop bench talking to two young men. Now I'm not sure if money was exchanged but it looked like the hula hoop was about to make another debut.