Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comedy on the rock

I drank just the right amount of Robotussin to counter a mounting head cold last weekend. It momentarily cured what ailed me and made me a little giddy for the St. Thomas Sport and Social Club's stand-up comedy show at Tillet Gardens.

Went to the Saturday show expecting it to be better than the Friday. I'm smart like that.

Bought "premiere seating" and when I arrived with my lovely girlfriend, and three other friends, we found our way to the front row. We were so close, we could see one of the performers tremble when no one laughed at her jokes.

It was a hilarious event. And living on a rock, hilarious events don't come around too often. Big ups to Joey Trattner, Mandy Kenton and all the others who put on the show. I think it was a success and there are more shows planned in the coming months.

It was great to see local people I've seen in passing -- bartenders, boat captains, bar flies -- get up there and nail it. My homie, Leigh Goldman, was the MC and he looked great. Even after he shaved half of his head at the Friday show...

The headliners were pretty good, too. The first guy had an immediate douche rating because he wore a white sport coat. He turned out to be a total douche when he opened his mouth. The last guy was a short, bald guy with alien ears and he was hysterical.

I had to sip a little Robotussin to get right that night but that final comedian had been partying since he landed on the rock. Apparently, drugs are inexpensive here. I wouldn't know.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Selling the youth

Last week, I spent five straight days chasing 11- and 12-year-old boys around town.

At the baseball diamond, at Pubelo (our local grocery market) -- I even saw the little buggers at the beach.

Two ballplayers from Aruba spotted me at Linbergh Bay and started yelling, "Newspaper man, newspaper man!" As I attempted to waste away the afternoon under strong sun rays, it was just another reminder that I can't escape the rigors of my job.

St. Thomas was the setting for the Caribbean Region Little League Baseball Championships and yours truly was "Johnny on the Spot" with amazing local coverage. The winner would advance to the Little League World Series, which is televised on ESPN, so you know it was a big deal.

I spent most of the week suffocating inside a cramped press box. With sloppy politicians to my right and random, rowdy children to my left, it was just another moment for me to freeze-frame in my mind and ask the question: "So this is my life?"

There were teams from Puerto Rico, Curacao, Aruba, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, St. Maarten and of course, the U.S. Virgin Islands. There were actually three USVI teams involved -- not sure how they pulled off this attempted coup -- but all three faltered and to add a little drama, one of them advanced to the championship.

Since there were teams from all over the Caribbean and I was writing feature stories about these kids, I thought it was important the visitors had a chance to view our tremendous content. They didn't sell the newspaper at the hotel where many of them stayed and I couldn't blame them for not venturing into downtown (St. Thomas is getting a tough guy reputation among the islands these days).

So I threw an idea at my boss. It went a little something like this:

Employee of the Month: "You know, I'm not sure that a lot of these parents even know about the coverage we're giving this tournament. Maybe we should send out a delivery guy to the games or set up some deal with the hotel?"

Boss: "That's a great idea. Let me talk to Ms. blah, blah in circulation and set that up."

E of the M (under his breath): "That's right. Everyone in the world deserves to read my words."

Fast forward to Saturday's championship game. It was supposed to start at 4 p.m. but guess who was at the ballpark an hour before the 1 p.m. consolation game with a stack of 100 copies of the Virgin Islands Daily News?

Apparently, the powers that be acknowledged my earlier suggestion as more of an offer to volunteer my services.

So there I was. Hung over. Sweating my ass off. Standing on the side of the road, next to the stadium, holding up the Daily News so passer-byes will buy them from me. And just like that, I became the very first white person to ever sell the newspaper in the history of said newspaper.

Most of the motorists gave me the double-take because they thought I was playing a joke. A white guy selling the Daily News? You could read the question mark on their faces.

A friend stopped in the intersection and rolled down his window: "Aaron, what the hell are you doing?"

I wasn't really sure. I mean, I didn't have a good answer for him. So I just improvised: "I lost a bet. Wanta buy a newspaper?"

He dug out a dollar bill and handed it to me with a concerned look on his face. It was actually my first sale. I'd been on the street corner for almost 25 minutes.

So instead of getting embarrassed by normal folk on the road, I figured I would work on the baseball parents in the stands (and continue to embarrass myself). The consolation game had just started so the parents that were watching were not very interested in reading about how their teams blew it the night before.

The same concerned look my buddy gave me earlier was shared by all the USVI fans that started to stroll in for the championship game. Many of them recognized or knew me. A few laughed. When others started to bargain with me -- 2-for-1 and hot dog trade attempts -- I knew it was time to hang up my newspaper usher reins.

I ended up selling about 30 copies and then I quit because I had to start focusing on my other job. You know, that whole journalism thing.

In an angry fit, I threw the remaining 70 copies in the back of my car. I wiped the sweat off my forehead and right before I grabbed my camera, note pad and voice recorder, I looked back at the crowded baseball diamond.

"So this is my life?"

Monday, July 11, 2011

The powers that be

We're moving into a new and bigger place down the road so my free time has been spent basically moving crap. It's stressful, any way you dice it. New beginnings. Closure on old digs. One door closes, another opens -- that kind of crap.

I guess I'm saying this because I wanted to justify why I haven't posted to the blog in almost two weeks. That's a good reason and because the latest post was one of my favorites (Happy Birthday, Woody) so I wanted it to breath a little bit.

This happened like three weeks ago but it needed to be documented. St. Thomas has experienced several blackouts recently and all the trauma had turned normal frustrated folk into a full-blown island misfits.

WAPA is the power and water company on island. The only one. There's no competition for these bastards and the government has its hand in the cookie jar, too.

So when rolling blackouts do occur, questions are frequently asked.

The first one is usually "Why?" A couple others come to mind: What in the hell are you guys doing? Do we live on a third world island? And get your shit together! (I know that last one isn't a question but I love yelling that remark to motorists that drive around the island in WAPA cars -- it makes me feel tough).

So Brianna and I had this nice little 2-day getaway planned on St. John. Basically a vacation away from our vacation. We actually won the free hotel night stay during a weekly raffle at one of our favorite watering holes.

We weren't five minutes away from leaving when we hear some jackass honking his horn in the street in front of our house. Like the seldom gun shots I hear, I ignored the first series of honks. The guy wouldn't stop and it wasn't until I walked out the front door and peered down the front walkway before I realized the honks were directed at me.

Law abiding citizen: "Hey buddy, what gives?"

WAPA jackass (while still sitting in the driver's seat, engine running, AC cranking): "Hey mon, you need to pay your power bill, I'm here to shut you off."

LAC: "Wait a second. Honking your horn? Is that how you bastards do business?"

WAPA jackass: "I saw both cars here."

LAC: "We're not even a month late. I've paid the bill on time for the last 15 months and we miss a few days and they send out people to shut it off? Why don't you go back to HQ and figure out why we lose power every other day?"

WAPA jackass: "I need money or I shut it off. Also, $30 late fee."

That's when I turned around and walked back into the house. It wasn't that we didn't have the money. We did. But like hundreds of St. Thomians, we had lost all faith in the company and we were basically boycotting them in our own little way.

When Brianna heard about the intentions of the WAPA jackass, she almost grabbed a weapon. She exchanged some salty words with the man and within an instant, he was out of the car, walked toward our power box and talked on his walkie talkie.

We were ready to pay but there was zero mention of an $30 late fee on the actual bill. We pulled it out for reference. He countered by summoning security on his walkie talkie.

Does WAPA even have security? We can't possibly be the first dead beats to take a stand against these scum.

From there, it was a good old fashioned sit-in. Peaceful. Effective. My ex-hippie parents would have been proud...

We basically blocked his path to the power box and he was out of options. He got a little frustrated, I started to chuckle and then he walked back to his car and left. Maybe it was because I snapped iPhone photos of his lunacy.

We had won the battle but the war had just begun.

Our ferry to St. John was about to leave so we quickly went online, paid the bill (sans any late fee), and taped this little note with a confirmation number on our power box.

We made it to St. John and had a lovely 2-day break off the rock. When we returned to our house, we were delighted to see the power was still on. An hour later, it was shut off and we started to curse but then we realized it was just another WAPA blackout screwing over the entire neighborhood again.

Congrats to you, WAPA. Keep up the good work and the fabulous customer service. Honk, honk.