Thursday, September 29, 2011

Boating adventures and booze

I don't know why everyone loves that movie, Almost Famous, but do you remember when the main character wrote the lead to his story in Rolling Stone magazine? Something about flying over the ocean and "we're all going to die..."

Well I'll do you one better, chump.

Two weeks ago, I was with some friends on a boat and we were powering our way from St. John back to St. Thomas late at night. The ride usually takes no longer than 15 minutes. During the excursion, the boat shut off completely. Our drunken giggles and the sound of the whaling engines were suddenly replaced by severe silence as we started to drift in complete darkness.

The boat doesn't have a gas meter so we all thought we ran out. Perhaps the battery? It didn't really matter because we were in a pickle and the situation looked grim.

As everyone retreated to their cell phones and attempted to call boating heroes at 2:18 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I took off my shirt and stared at both shores. Which one was closer, St. John or Rock City? Could I swim it and be the hero? If I did make it to shore, then what?

All these questions annoyed me so I did what any rational person would do in such a situation.

I popped a bottle of champagne.

"I've been in a lot worse predicaments than this, folks," I said in attempt to chill everyone out.

For some, it really didn't matter. My girlfriend and another girl we were with had already hunkered down in the front of the boat. It looked like they were going to sleep this one off and wait for the sun to rise in a few hours.

So you can imagine their reactions when they heard the steady stream of urine hitting the warm Caribbean Sea in the middle of the night. They were really irked when they heard the cork pop off the champagne bottle.

I thought it was a great idea. It was a minor celebration to mark the end of a great adventure.

It all started about 10 hours earlier when Brianna and I met Scottie H and Benji at the marina, where they keep their boat. It was raining when we arrived and we just sat in our cars and waited for the storm clouds to push off.

"Shit will burn off," Brianna said while mocking one of my favorite island quotes.

For some odd reason, Moose and Marcus bought about two cases of Schaefer beer. You know, the good stuff. The cans are only 10 oz. so that justified the need to crush at least 20 of them before we got to shores of Cruz Bay.

Once there, we picked up a few more beach beauties and went to a nearby bay for some scurfing. What is scurfing you ask? Well if you didn't waste your time clicking on that link, it's basically like water skiing but using a surf board. We did that for about an hour and a half. Maybe that's how we ran out of gas?

After the scurf action, we decided to go back to shore and visit the fine establishment otherwise known as Woody's. We had already crushed our Schaefer supplies, mixed vitamin water with Cruzan dark and I guess we were all had the happy hour shakes. What turned into "one shot and we'll move on" turned into a shot frenzy and a $362 booze tab.

If there was a break in the sloppy conversation, Scottie H would lock eyes with you and tap his wrist with two fingers. In most civilized cultures, this gesture usually references what the current time is. To Scottie ("Boating!" was his war cry), this meant it was time for another round of shots. Though I didn't take part in each of them, Jager bombs, Cruzan 151, Washington Apples and Statue Of Liberty shots -- the one where you light your finger on fire -- were all consumed.

It's during those critical hours that follow when I want to hire a stenographer. For obvious reasons.

I do recall wandering into a sophisticated bar called Castaways where Scottie H grabbed the soda gun that servers use to refill drinks and shooting different liquids at innocent bystanders.

Later on, there was a debate with a cute bartender named Ricki. No, not about another gaudy bar tab. The bartender grew up on St. Croix, as did Scottie, so a little trash talk about their rival high schools started up. Since I cover high school sports for the Daily News, I felt I had some knowledge on the subject and decided to chime in on the discussion.

What did I say? I'm not too sure. I don't really remember. All available stenographers, please send me your resume.

At some point, I remember watching the Mayweather-Ortiz fight at another bar. I had a great conversation with a Islander who was a huge boxing fan. I told him that I wrote the article about the USVI professional boxers earlier in the week and he hugged me. Then he bought me a shot. It was a great symbol of respect shared among two sports fans.

The blurry St. John experience started to fade when we got back on the boat in Cruz Bay and warmed up the engines for a return trip.

Later on, when the engine went dead, the champagne was drank and after Moose proved his vast knowledge of 90's alternative music via Pandora to me, a savior joined the party.

Our friend Emily, who was also on board, somehow got in contact with a friend of a co-worker of a former roommate of a dental assistant and he rolled up to our drifting boat on a dingy with a 5-gallon drum of gas. We offered him money and he passed and he wouldn't even take a sip of champagne. A true American hero who did not seek any praise.

After a few pleasantries, he set off back to St. John and we were able to start the engine again. Most people would go straight home after such an ordeal and be happy they didn't have to spend the night out at sea.

What did we do? We got to shore and stopped into Caribbean Saloon for one. Make that many.

It was just another typical Saturday in paradise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Muscles are sexy

Today was the day. I joined a gym.

Well, not really. I recently moved and now I am located very close -- about 75 yards -- from this gym. I don't want to divulge the name of said gym because that would violate the meathead-to-gym confidentiality agreement.

That and I haven't really signed up as a member yet. I don't plan to, either.

The girl in charge of the front desk is a former basketball stud from the island and she told me she's the only one working from 6-9 a.m. Basically, all the big wigs roll in around 9 and after they soak up their morning coffee, they will go to extreme measures to foil my evil plan.

So I checked out the place this morning and it's pretty legit by island standards. A gaggle of middle-aged soccer moms, fresh off their salsa dancing workout class, congregated near the front desk and each of these bored puppets stared at me during my shady entrance.

"He's new. Is he even a member? Should I tell someone? What am I going to do with the rest of my day?"

After I meandered through that sweaty mess, I looked around and saw only two other meatheads there lifting weights. It was like 9 a.m. so I was a little surprised. Where is everyone? Work? Sleeping off a Tuesday hangover?

I was doing neither so I made a promise to myself that I would come to this gym everyday at 9 a.m. and pump iron until the cows came home. Or until I was offered steroids in the locker room. Whichever happens first.

One of my college roommates was really into lifting. He took me out to his gym a couple times and really kicked my ass. And then he would inject steroids into his ass so I guess it was a fair trade.

OK. I'd love to keep writing but people in my office keep walking behind me and grabbing ganders at my computer screen.

"What is he writing? Should I tell someone? It's too hot today."

If they are not careful, I will rip off my shirt and expose my crazy muscles. Then a sudden roid rage will ensue followed by a protein shake. Better hold off on that plan for now. Wait until the muscles come and then I will take over the world.

Just like Arnold.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NFL action on island

Tropical Storm Maria was a complete tease. She was on a direct line for the USVI but passed north by about 50 miles. So the alleged day of reckoning turned out to be another sunny day in paradise.

Now what I am going to do with all the canned raviolis I bought? I'm sure I'll eat them eventually.

Moving on. So it's 12:50 p.m. on Sunday and the NFL is about to kick off its Week 1 action.

I was excited. My laptop was on the coffee table so I could monitor my fantasy teams, my stomach was full of cheesy eggs and I was still wearing my pajamas. It was shaping up to be a classic Sunday.

Then the satellite goes out.

I let out an angry yelp that was definitely rated R and frantically searched for answers. It wasn't because of a damaged signal or an approaching storm. Nope. The box literally turned itself out.

I looked at my watch. 12:57. Three minutes before kickoff? Sonofabitch.

I wasn't about to miss the opening game of the year but earlier in the week, I announced to my beautiful girlfriend that I was going to stay away from the bars this season. I wanted to preserve the girth of my cash roll, prevent the ensuing hangovers and spend some quality time with my lady while we shout at New York Giants together.

While I sat there and watched a TV screen full of static, my palms started to sweat. I considered jumping through the front window and running wind sprints until I passed out.

Brianna: "I can tell you're about to freak out. Why don't you just go to the bar?"

Sober NFL fan: "But I'm trying to save some money. We're paying for this satellite with the New York feed so we can watch all the Giants games. Did you hear that? I think I'm starting to hyperventilate."

Brianna: "The Giants game is on at 4. You didn't know that?"

My lady always knows what to say to clam me down. I kissed her on the forehead, put on my Giants jersey (no showering for this guy) and grabbed the dog leashes. She knew exactly where I was going.

The Dog Pub near downtown St. Thomas is a great spot. You can put your dogs in a large cage and let them duke it out while you sip suds at a nearby bar and watch football. The owner is a Giants fan. I knew this bar to be my one safe haven on a unpredictable football Sunday.

People always ask me if there is a big football fan base on the island and there definitely is. Despite the very lack of available sports bars, there are plenty of import fans from all across the States.

Check out my San Diego friends Chris and Maggie. Yes, that is their new baby already sporting Charger threads.

Hooter's (aka Hoots McGoots), Caribbean Saloon and Shipwreck Tavern are also wise selections when watching football on St. Thomas. The good people at Sib's open early for football but they are hardcore New England fans while just about any other drinking hole is a crapshoot.

The Giants ended up losing to the Redskins (for the first time since 2007) but I still had a great time at Dog Pub. Brianna's car got slammed into by some drunk leaving Shipwreck but that's a whole different story and I don't feel like typing anymore.

Maybe I'll swing by Dog Pub for one on my way home? Perhaps. Wouldn't you want to know? Good day to you, sir.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Get my glide on

The name of this bloggy blog is "Living In Paradise" but I tend to makes moves to different parts of the world. From time to time, I need a vacation away from my vacation, you know what I mean?

The fat Creole guy from The Waterboy said, "Home is where you make it." I think that's what he said. Well, I believe you can attach the idea of paradise to the same statement.

Last month, I spent two weeks in the States and was able to visit family in the Outer Banks, NC. I used to live there during some insane college summers so those barrier islands have seen me at me best ... and at my worse.

During my post-recent trip, I tried some hang gliding for the first time. Went there with a fellow thrill-seeker, otherwise known as The Hersh. Just another decent soul frolicking around the earth.

If you have a shred of athletic ability, then hang gliding is for you. It's like skydiving but not as crazy and similar to wind surfing but without the sand in your mouth. If you have the right people around you and a decent hill or cliff, it's very easy to pick up on your first try.

I had those elements around me at Jockeys Ridge in Nags Head and Mike, the instructor, was a cool guy. Therefore, I strongly endorse their company so check out their web site.

I've spent $100 on much worse things.

Now ladies and gentlemen, it's time to fire up some YouTube and watch me fall on my face. Check out instructor Mike, who actually laughed at me when I did a nosedive into the sand.

The second attempt was a little better because I grabbed some decent air. I almost landed it, over-committed at the end and ultimately, fell on my ass.

My goal was to stop eating sand.

On the last attempt, I finally landed the sonofabitch. At the time, I thought I did it all by myself but after The Hersh sent me these videos, I saw that Mike helped me at the very end. What a letdown. It was like when my dad got drunk, forgot to put a dollar under my pillow and the tooth was still there in the morning.