Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Buy the ticket, take the ride

Stayed up very late last night listening to 80's music and itching mosquito bites. I had an important decision to make and for some reason, listening to the Top Gun theme song made me think clearly.

I'm still feeling the effects of moving and I have little fundage at the moment. So why did I finally decide on a very expensive plane ticket and a $11.95/day rental car?

Because I'm going to the final day of The Masters.

Who knows? What if Tiger comes back from his sex romp scandal and wins at Augusta? If I passed on this and he won, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I went to final day last year, and let me tell you, it's worth the financial setback.

Now if Tiger chokes, I'll just high-five Lefty, drive to the ATL, let it rain with Lil Jon and call it a night.

So get ready, Georgia. You're going to have me on your hands for 52 hours with reckless access to a Ford Focus and Huey Lewis blaring out of the speakers. Scary thought.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hired geeks

Sailing is probably Numero Uno among sports here and it's something I have very little -- if any -- knowledge of.

This past weekend was the International Rolex Regatta, similar in scope to the F*cking Catalina Wine Mixer.

Rolex is big news here. Why, you ask, I have no idea. And after spending countless hours in the sun over three days with these half-drunk sailors, I still don't know why.

I'll give them one thing: they sure do know how to party. In my crash-course briefing on how to cover sailing in some conventional way, our staff photographer told me that I can't wait too long to interview the skippers. They get drunk too fast and then they don't want to be bothered by people like me.

A journalist in my current position can't deal with pirate slang. Areeee, matey?

What he didn't tell me is that these bastards drank during the race, too. Which made their post-race interviews something out of a Beavis and Butthead episode -- too much sun and too much booze.

During the race, I had the luxury of riding a power boat with the other sporting press members covering the race. Good people. One jackass (fatty in the white shirt), who thought he was running the show, wouldn't stop talking and treated the boat captain like some sort of second-rate citizen.

Had another guy from New Jersey (shirtless dude) who was freelancing and was just happy to get the ride. He snuck his girlfriend on for good measure and she got seasick. So it goes.

Finally there was Sean (red hat), our staff photographer, who seemed to know everyone ("It's a small island, bro.") and myself, some bearded hack annoyed that he had to spend the day on a boat instead of stuck inside some cramped office.

Well, nine hours on a boat is a long time. I'd say I was fighting off the fearful chunder for about the last three.

When we finally got to shore, I was so happy I kissed the ground. Some old lady sitting there with her disabled husband felt like some random chit-chat and she asked me if I was out racing. I was reading my chicken-scratch notes and hoped she would disembark after I ignored her initial inquiry. She repeated and I looked up. I was still a little ill so I fell back on some trustworthy HST quotes.

"No m'am, I'm with the sporting press. You know ... hired geeks?"

She looked very confused.

She suspected I was mocking her so I simply shrugged my shoulders and put my sunglasses back on. A second later, some drunk sailor dropped his glass bottle on the deck causing a minor commotion. I seized the moment and walked toward the bar.

The Mount Gay Rum sailing team was there and it had just ordered the first round. I pulled out my voice recorder and went to work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

St. Patty's Day flashback

Where do you go on vacation when you already live in paradise?

While you contemplate that philosophically-deep question, let me explain why I haven't posted anything over the last 10 days:

1. St. Patrick's Day -- It's always a killer. For all of my Annapolis people out there, you know what I'm talking about (P.S. I stayed away from back alleys and not a single police officer tackled me).

2. Friends In Town -- Indeed, my partner in debauchery, Nick, and his girlfriend, Kerrie, came for a five-day visit. I think they drank the punch and asked for seconds.

3. The Flu -- It floored me for about 36 hours but I'm now back and running (literally).

Let me start with St. Patty's Day. The good people at The VI Daily News thought I should take the day off on March 17. Enabler, you ask? Sure.

The day started at the Kokopelli's Cafe, where as soon as I walked in, they informed me that it was 2-for-1 beer day. Enabler, you ask? Hell yeah.

After I met and exceeded my day-time beer limit, I ventured back home to rendezvous with my lady, who had just got off work. It was St. Patty's so I had a perfect excuse for being twisted at 4 p.m.

"They let the office out early so we all could go to Happy Hour," she tells me. "And no one has to go in tomorrow until 11 a.m. Isn't that great?"

"Enabler?" I mumbled.

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "You're drunk. I'm driving."

When we go to the bar in Red Hook, we find out that her company rented out a bar in the back room and the Grey Goose vodka was free. But that didn't stop Brianna's boss from ordering me countless shots of tequila. Sure, that works, I thought. It's St. Patty's Day, the top-shelf vodka is free and her Vin Diesel-look-alike boss is fast-talking me and sneaking the dirty Mexican into the party through the back door.

I asked the boss if he had ever seen the movie Boiler Room and he said he'd never seen it. That happened right before we started to stumble over to the only tame night club on the island -- I heard it had a stripper pole.

The rest of the night is off the record. Good day to you, sir.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cheap booze

For all you former college booze hounds and aspiring beer-belly seekers currently in college, I just wanted to let you know the locals here love the Steel Reserve malt liquor.

We used to chug this malodorous crap back in the day because it was super cheap and it got the job done. Still trying to find out what the fascination is here. When I jog around town, it's the No. 1 brand of beer can crushed on the side of the street.

I'm not really sure what that means.

I haven't seen it available at a bar yet but I did just find out that this tourist trap near the cruise boat dock called MoJo's has $2 Red Stripes, every day, all day. I plan on hitting that place up very soon. Maybe after I finish writing this. Hmm, but it is a school night...

Regardless of where I end up in the next few hours, one thing I need to do is call my boy, Nick Wassum. He and his gal-pal are coming for a visit on Thursday and they will be my official first visitor from the States. Should make for some great adventures. I'll keep you posted.

In the mean time, I had one last photo to add. I took it while pumping gas earlier today. With St. Patty's Day approaching very fast, the photo serves as a tug-of-war among the drinkers on the island. Sort of a duality of man, if I may.

Did I mention I'm off work Wednesday? Yep, just another reason you wish you were me. Man, that sounded cocky.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Steel Pulse concert

Nothing on this island starts on time ... except for the Steel Pulse concert last night at the Reichhold Center. We were just finishing up our drinks in the parking lot before the jam began at 8 p.m. sharp.

We missed the four opening songs but it was OK. During the encore, people were allowed to walk up toward the stage and you know this guy made it up there front and center.

You're really not allowed to have a camera inside the venue but the security team didn't find the three bottles of beer I put in Brainna's purse so a tiny digital camera tucked away in the cargo pocket of my shorts was beyond them.

Superbad: "No one has gotten head while wearing cargo shorts since 'Nam."

On several occasions, other security guys asked me to put away the camera but they were very cool about it. I was literally standing front row so I had to grab a quick video session. The sound isn't great -- I was standing next to a bass speaker -- but this band is a legend. I've been jamming out to Steel Pulse since college, which was many years after the Vietnam conflict.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slim Shady

It's not like I'm watching a lot of television down here.

Really. I'm not.

But for some reason, our TV gets like six channels for free so the gf is trying to talk me out of getting Direct TV or some other monster package. I gotta have my sports, especially with March Madness coming up. If I don't have ESPN, I feel like it's a detriment to my profession.

Anyway, with only six primitive channels, I've become quite accustomed to the commercial patterns and there's this one local bar that has a great slogan. The place is called Coconuts but at the end of every ad, they describe the place as "A sunny place for shady people."

How perfect is that?

Well, after covering my games tonight, I received a phone call from a slightly intoxicated Brianna who needed to be picked up because she went to happy hour with the other salesmen from her work.

Where did they go? Of course, you guessed it.


Nah, they didn't go to Hooters (even though Brianna and I did go there for a date night our first week down here and the waitress totally hit on her). They went to Coconuts and I asked her if there were any shady people there. She gave the place mediocre marks and complained because her drink was too stiff.

Sunny place for shady people with stiff drinks?

Now all they need is a huge flat screen TV with ESPN and I'm set.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rocky Balboa

Do you remember the scene in the beginning Rocky III when the old Italian Stallion is walking through this dingy gym with Apollo Creed? There were plenty of other fighters (who, eh, look just like Creed) and they were all staring at Rocky and his caucasian goofiness.

Well that was me yesterday. But instead of a gross spit bucket near the boxing ring, there were chickens walking around near the doorway.

Thus far, it was my favorite day being a sports reporter on the island.

Meet Julian "The Hawk" Jackson, a three-time world boxing champion. He's in the orange shirt. He's surrounded by his two sons, Julius and John, each of whom competed in the 2008 Olympics for the USVI and are now professional fighters. The guy all the way to the left is Samuel Rogers, another local pro and the big guy in the white is Clayton Laurent, an emerging amateur, who is aiming for the 2012 Games.

The guy in the very back in a sweaty gray T-shirt is some random trainer. As I was leaving, he asked me for a ride to McDonalds.

So I was there to do a story on Julius (red shirt) because he is going to make his professional international debut this Friday in the Dominican Republic.

The kid couldn't have been more polite, genuine and well-spoken. As a writer, when you get to do feature profiles on people like him, your job is so much easier.

My paper won't spring for me to cover him in the D.R. but last night, over some beers, I asked our newspaper's publisher if I could go cover the World Cup in South Africa this summer. He thinks I was joking but he was sorely mistaken.

Anyway, I may actually watch his fight on TV. It's going to be aired live Friday on ESPN Deportes. At least that's what his crazy boxing promoter just texted me. But those guys are full of shit half the time.

There I go. Starting to ramble a little bit...

Before I get loopy, let me just leave you with this.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Frustration sets in

Went on a jog this morning and returned to the house to find out I locked myself out. Went on another jog to Brianna's new job -- it was her first day -- but she wasn't around because she was in a meeting that "may take an hour or so." Went on another jog, this time for approximately 55 minutes. Returned to her office. "Nope, haven't seen her." Jogged home and was back to square one. I later learned she didn't have a house key on her anyway.

No wallet. No cell phone (to check facebook). And no freaking keys!

I actually took two big swings at the window in the front door with a gardening tool but I couldn't break the window. Great. On top of being an idiot for locking my self out, now I feel like a wussy.

Then deadbeat landlord came driving up and he gave me a spare key. Problem solved.

Went to work. Met my boss for the first time. She's the one that let me stay at her house while she was out of town. I wanted to shower her with thank you's because of her generosity but I was already in a bad mood so a simple "Thanks" sufficed. I left the office immediately and went to a basketball doubleheader.

Sat in island traffic for 20 minutes (so it really doesn't count).

Interviewed girl who knocked down four 3-pointers in one period to lead her team to victory. Her accent was so thick, I couldn't understand a single word. Asked her coach to translate.

Got back to office and server wouldn't connect so I couldn't upload pictures.

Filed stories, send picture of my beard to Chico in Florida and now I'm finished for the night.

I need a beer. My legs are still vibrating. Shit. Did I bring my keys with me?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Living with the gf

Yes, I now live with my girlfriend. Isn't it grand?

During the blitzkrieg of snow storms that struck Maryland (and the rest of the Northeast) in the weeks before I left for the USVI, we chose to get snowed in together for good practice. Since we didn't kill each other and because she cooked many delicious meals for me, we decided moving in together on the island would not be a huge difference.

There have been a few very minor struggles -- "What my baby wants, my baby gets" -- but all in all, it has been a pleasure and I look forward to the great things we will discover, accomplish and embrace together.

Enough of the sappy stuff. Time to start making fun of her.

Before I left for the office today, she asked that I not place my shoes under the bed because it makes it harder to clean. I naturally complied and started to place all FOUR (yes, that's right -- four) pieces of apparel for my feet in the closet. I know packing for this relocation had to be light so I currently have two pairs of sandals, one pair of running shoes and a pair of brown work shoes at my disposal.

That made me wonder: how many pairs of shoes did she bring?

It took me some time because I didn't have a calculator handy but according to my data, I learned that she had TWENTY-TWO (22) pairs of shoes.

"You should see how many shoes I left at home," she says.

On an island where I'd prefer to go barefoot most of the time, the shoe scoreboard reads:

Brianna 22, Aaron 4

I've covered USVI high school basketball games with closer results. And that says a lot.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Starting to love the steel drums

I recorded this little snippet before the 8 Tuff Miles road race last weekend in St. John.

If you listen carefully, you can hear steel drums in the distance just about everywhere on the island. OK, there is just a touch of bullshit in that statement but I really dig the instrument and I wish I could hire this band to play a party at my house.

The very next day, Team USA fell to Canada in overtime of the gold medal match.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Side projects

I covered a road race on Saturday called 8 Tuff Miles and it's exactly that: an uphill race that criss-crosses through the island of St. John.

Fast forward two days.

I'm sitting in a bar with three random guys I picked up because they were hitch-hiking on the side of the road. We're sharing a bucket of beers when the bartender asked me if I got any good pictures of him. I had no idea what he meant but then he said he saw me snapping away photos as people crossed the finish line over the weekend and he remembered me.

"It's a small island, bro," he said.

We had a few more drinks, I watched a pair of sweaty spring breakers give lap dances to random guys on the dance floor, and then called it a night. I told the bartender I would search through the photos and I would email him if any came up.

Sure enough, I did snap some pictures of him so I emailed them away.

"Wow, you're not going to charge him?" the staff photographer asked me.

The thought never crossed my mind. In his email reply, the bartender told me to come back to his bar for free drinks.

Should I start taking pictures on the side and charging these island folk? Should I accept free drinks? Man, I hope my boss never catches wind of this blog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tourist bashing ... already?

I picked up a co-worker on the north side of the island today before work because her car broke down and she's pretty much screwed. My car was dropped off at a shipping company in Jersey two weeks ago and because of U.S. customs, it won't be here for another two weeks. So it goes.

Anyway, back to my story. When we came above a peak and an amazing view of the bay was exposed, I sighed for a moment and enjoyed the scenery.

"Shit, look at that," she said. "Six boats, are you kidding me? Traffic is going to be a bitch."

The co-worker, a news reporter who has been on the job for only three months, already had a good feel for when traffic would peak based on the number of tourists coming off the cruise ships. Indeed, six cruise boats in the bay at one time is a lot and sure enough, when I was driving to a high school baseball game later in the afternoon, the tourist traffic bit me right in the ass.

Am I starting to resent tourists already? I've only been on the island for 15 days.

It's not like they all come off the boats and rent cars -- some do -- but it's the taxis and tour vans that really get in the way. Most of the vans can hold up to 12 people and those said vans take their sweet time driving through downtown and around the curvy country roads.

If they were taking pictures, then I felt I should too ... while driving my car. And talking on the iPhone. And nibbling on a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza. All at the same time.

I figured that in a land that allows open consumption of alcohol while driving, a little multi-tasking behind the wheel would not attract any road blocks. Not for an old island local like me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pizza and beer

The traffic situation on the island, especially downtown, is very fickle.

It's nothing like getting caught up in rush hour on the beltway. Oh no, there's no highways in VI. But down here, there are some tight roads that meander through hilly areas. When traffic slows down, you really can't look ahead and see what the problem is.

While waiting on these two-lane roads, little Dominos pizza delivery scooters will zoom by while riding down the divider line. It's completely crazy and these guys are absolutely fearless.

One of the news reporters gave me a raised eye brow and told me these people are not really delivering pizza. He said they're pushing drugs and that's why they can't let tiny backups get in their way. Deadline, I guess.

I think he was joking but I'm not sure. I'm still sporting the FNG badge so I'm not going to press anyone. Not yet.

Well, I just filed my last story. I'm off to this local spot called Fat Boys in Redhook. Going to drink beer and sample this rum everyone keeps talking about. It's time to get weird.