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...