Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flying under the grid

I am a huge fan of mockery. I like to do it in my own little ways.

My Maryland state license expired in May. My passport became defunct last February. Do I care? Not really.

I actually don't have a single accurate photo ID of myself except for my scuba diving certification card. The picture was taken in 2003. I look like a jackass. Less of a jackass than I am now though.

So as I walked through the St. Thomas airport two weeks ago ready to spend a little R&R in the States, none of these ID shortcomings really concerned me at all. Before I left, the customs agent checked my expired Md. license, didn't see the expiration date and asked the same questions I get every time.

"Take off your sun glasses ... What do you do on island, Mr. Gray?"

"I'm a writer," I always answer with a grin.

"What do you write?"

"For the Daily News, if you count that as writing. I'm the sports guy."

Usually after that exchange, the customs agent has heard enough, stamps what he has to stamp and sends me on my way. Getting off this island is extremely easy. Think Elian Gonzalez here.

I'm not in D.C. more than a day before I get an email from the good people at the V.I. Olympic Committee, who informed me that my passport status had expired and I needed to renew it pronto. I'm going to the Pan American Games in Mexico in October and they need the paperwork in like two weeks.

Two weeks? I just started my two-week vacation.

OK. I need to get a passport. What do I need for that? A driver's license. Preferably from a U.S. state or territory that I reside in. I live in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I've been there for almost two years. Do I have a V.I. license? No. Who likes the whole question-and-answer-myself technique? I do sometimes. But it's getting old.

You're supposed to get a V.I. license within 2 months of moving here. I know this because it's what every police officer has told me after they pulled me over and I handed them my expired Maryland license.

My rebuttal: "Sorry officer, I just moved here. I'll be sure to do it tomorrow. Please ignore last year's car registration sticker on my wind shield." Dumbass.

Moral of the story: the police and customs agents on this island are lazy. I like to exploit that. I like to mock them and their haphazard laws.

They are stupid. I am smart. Sort of.

Oh yeah, I went to the Lt. Governor's office yesterday, waited in a few lines, paid about $200 and renewed my passport. It will be here next week. !Viva la Mexico!

I love this country.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane hilarity

Dark clouds mounted over St. Thomas on Sunday morning and you could hear the tree branches next to my house rub against the roof because of the strong winds.

Coincidentally, I was sitting on the couch watching Karate Kid II. You remember the part when the big storm is about to crush Mr. Miyagi's home in Japan? Stellar cinema, indeed.

Then my phone rang.

Scottie H: “Yo, so what's up with this chili cookoff? Is it going to happen?

Aaron G: “It says 'rain or shine.' What do you think?”

Scottie H: “The forecast says a huge storm is coming.”

Aaron G: “Let's get some beer. I'll pick you up in 20. I do not have the fear.”

Scottie H: “Neither do I. Maybe that's why we hang out together...”

I couldn't get Brianna to come because she is blessed with common sense. I put on a bathing suit, slipped on sandals and grabbed the cooler. Three ingredients to a good time.

I picked up Scottie and we drove straight to Brewer's Beach for the Texas Society Chili Cookoff. I was surprised by the early turnout considering the Apocalypse was right around Crown Mountain and it was heading toward the party.

As we pulled up to the parking lot, we saw a fat black lady walking down the street with a plastic, yellow grocery bag on her head to protect the weave.

“That's how you know this shit is serious,” I said to Scottie.

The plan was simple. Emerge from the car with just our bathing suits, a T-shirt and sandals. Leave all electronics in the car. When it rained, get in the water and bring the beer. Relax in the water. Turn around and witness the carnage.

Innocent chilli cookers and eaters tried to have fun but the weather was unrelenting. We stood there and watched as people frantically lunged to secure poles so the tents didn't fly away in the tropical winds. The rain started to pour so the guy on the stage gently talked into the microphone like it was Woodstock.

“Everyone, just hug the person next to you. We can get through this...”

We laughed out loud at people's misfortunes. We pointed at their miserable attempts to close up shop. You've heard of good Samaritans, right? We were the exact opposite.

Eventually, the good people that ran the cookoff called it quits before the storm really got nasty. We frolicked back to my car and sat on my leather seats soaking wet.

I didn't have to make any phone calls. Hurricane Party plans had already been made.

Now one of the coolest thing about living on an island vulnerable to Hurricanes is Hurricane Parties. The key is to gather with a good group before the power goes out, the charcoals cool off and the beer gets warm.

At this particular Hurricane Party, we feasted on delicious shrimp sewers, sausages and cookies. We threw down cold beer, shots of dark Cruzan and I even learned how to play dominoes.

Many thanks to the Wolverine, chef Julie, cookie master Bobbi, the landlord, the lanlord's roommate Sean and the others who made it a memorable night. I couldn't think of a better crew to hunker down with.

The powers that be put an 8 p.m. curfew in place, which made me snicker.

Before I returned home (and before the island turned upside down), I had to drive Scottie and Bobbi back home. He lived almost on top of Crown Mountain – the perfect place you want to be for a Hurricane – and as for Bobbi, she lived back in town.

We were one of the only cars on the road except for the swine. On three separate occasions, they somehow managed to pull up next to me and inform me of the 8 p.m. curfew.

The latest encounter came at 10:23 p.m.

“I didn't know, officer. I figured I could play the dumb car until at least midnight. Thanks for your concern, though.”

And then I would drive off. It was that simple. The next day, my boss gave me a Hurricane Curfew ID so now big URN is finally above the law! (Kingpin quote)

The eye of the storm actually went across St. Croix (45 miles south of St. Thomas) but the damage was very minimal. I've spent the last two days making fun of friends who had called to see if I was alive or OK.

The latest idiot, ehh, I mean good-natured friend was my boy Chico. He even posted something on my facebook page inquiring my whereabouts while I watched the Giants beat up on the Bears at Hooter's on Monday.

I called him back this morning and was surprised he picked up.

Hurricane survivor: “Chico, it's absolute chaos over here. Our house is completely gone and we're holed up in a refugee shelter. This jackal just stabbed me for the last piece of bread so I fashioned a piece of dirty wood into a spear. I'm about to run amok in this place...”

Chico: “C'mon, Urn. Tell me some truth.”

Hurricane survivor: “I'm serious, bro. Pay one of our rich yacht friends from Florida to come pick me up. It's pure anarchy. The carnage is unbearable.”

Chico: “I'm hanging up.”

Now I'm sure there are natural disasters that occur all the time on this planet and many lives are lost. Just like a devastating earthquake in Virginia. So I shouldn't make fun. But I was already warmed up and I couldn't help myself.

From a facebook post earlier this afternoon: Our Hurricane/Tropical Storm will kick your Earthquake's ass any day of the week.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More battle scars

Brianna, my lovely girlfriend, doesn't exactly get mad when I come back home with bloody cuts or swollen bruises. Don't get me wrong. She questions my judgement. My plight. My excessive appetite for awesomeness.

She saw the gashes on my back -- inches from past battle scars -- along with two bloody elbows on Sunday afternoon and once again, she had to walk to the medicine/junk basket perturbed.

On Sunday morning, she hit the snooze button. I couldn't convince her to take part in the awesomeness.

My buddy Thomas "Adventure" Layer snapped this shot of me defying gravity and enjoying life. Elena, Bobbi, Adventure and I charged the cliffs of Bordeaux on the west side of St. Thomas and we crushed it.

I've taken a few Continentals to the same spot before and it usually blows minds. I can't really describe it as a hike, a climb, or a swim. It's a little bit of everything.

A tiny piece of paradise within paradise.

I was so excited that I managed to wound myself in the first five minutes. Yeah, perhaps I was just trying to go big to show off for the girls we were with? Sounds about right. And it looked a lot worse than it felt.

I was in a hairy spot and tried to use the momentum of a wave to push me back onto the rocks. I couldn't snag a grip and what goes up, must come down.

I landed right on my back. Not sure what happened to my elbows. I didn't have a shirt I could use to soak up the blood and the salt water was good for the battle scars.

Small price to pay for awesomeness.