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?