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.