Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm sleeping on a boat

At about the same time when passengers from the doomed Costa Concordia cruise ship were jumping into the Mediterranean Sea and swimming for land, I was invited to spend the night on my friend's 100-foot charter sail boat off the coast of St. John.

He overheard me telling a friend on the phone that I was spending the night on a 'luxury sail boat' and I think it bothered him but I didn't care. It was luxurious as hell and that's how I roll.

Bill is the captain of the Tilly Mint and his girlfriend Nathlaie is the ship's amazing cook. She also keeps my man honest and will humor his slight addiction to
Southern-style grits. Check out their blog.

Moments before I met Bill in the Yacht Haven Grande parking lot, he sent me a text:

"Forgot to remind you, don't bring anything illegal on board..."

Who does he think I am? Some kind of Caribbean drug pusher? The only thing I brought with me was a case of beer, two bags of ice, a couple dramamine tablets and my sobriety.

After we hauled a new sail for the boat and maneuvered our way past the cruise ships in the Charlotte Amalie Harbor, we were out to the open sea and the conditions were rough. I started to get that seasick feeling where my body breaks down and I just want to take a nap.

That shit passed. And then the sobriety thing I talked about earlier was my next victim.

Bill and Nathalie had to start a charter in St. Maartin the next day so this was more of a celebration of freedom. And when you're dealing with freedom, a little rum is always involved.

The bar voyage started at Joe's Rum Hut in Cruz Bay, shifted toward the Mexican restaurant behind Beach Bar (Bill thought he could eat more happy hour tacos than me but he was sorely mistaken) and then we got sidetracked at Woody's.

Getting sidetracked at Woody's? Like that's ever happened...

Before we knew it, we were inside a sophisticated establishment called Castaway's Tavern. This is the same place Scottie H. and I literally pulled the soda gun out from behind the bar and started to spray random people. And they still didn't kick us out.

This is also where a mysterious photo was taken on my cell phone. Not sure the story behind it or its origin but it did scare me. Nothing but head scratches the next day.

So we rode the dingy back to the Tilly Mint and I was asked to go to sleep peacefully inside a charter guest room. I had never slept on a boat before (intentionally) so it was a unique experience for me.

I woke up the next morning feeling great and just before Capt. Bill served me up some grits, I started to look through the photos taken the night before.

The painted finger nails exhibited such beauty, such glamor. Whoever this girl was, she must have been something special. Something magnificent.

"Nah dude, she was a dumpy prostitute," Bill remembered. "When I saw you talking to her, I didn't know what the hell you were doing. Then you pulled out your camera! Later on, we saw her talking to the cops outside. You don't remember? Either she was about to get arrested or she was about to turn tricks for the pigs."

I guess that's what happens when you mix dramamine with rum and Mexican food.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Luxury and lunacy

I passed the Coach and Gucci high-end stores on my way to join a few friends on a luxury yacht docked in Yacht Haven Grande last night.

We sat together, sipped red wine and nibbled on delicious pasta. We were about to play a game of backgammon but settled on casual conversation about U.S. politics and why some residents on St. Thomas still haven't had clean water since early December.

Just before the expensive Italian ice cream was served for dessert, about four gun shots were heard in the distance.

I knew exactly where they came from but everyone else questioned whether they were even gun shots at all. We finished our ice cream and continued to chat while a slight breeze came in off the harbor.

Then five more gun shots sounded from the same direction.

Ahh, only on St. Thomas. I really can't make this shit up.

While I texted the news reporter in the office to let him know about the multiple shots fired in the Paul M. Pearson Gardens Public Housing Project, it just struck me how adverse some parts of the island are.

If you drive down the road closest to the dock where all the cruise ship yuppies flourish, one side of the road is the housing project and the other has gaudy merchandise stores and millionaire yacht owners. In the middle -- or concrete median in this case -- the USVI Government dropped serious coin and decided to plant 40-foot palm trees to disguise the obvious.

Last week, our paper published a story about how there were 48 homicides in the territory last year (which was a 3-year low).

In reaction, I overheard tourism puppets ask questions like, "How could they publish that story with six boats in port?" and "Oh, they're just trying to sell papers."

Some people just ignore the truth. It's pretty sad.

And the truth is that St. Thomas is very safe. I have, at no time since I've lived here, feared for my life or felt like I was in direct danger.

Yes, those 48 homicides ranked us No. 8 in the world (below El Salvador and Iraq) in deaths per 100,000 people. But how many of them were tourists? Very few, if any.

I'm not going to say that all the homicides were acceptable or explainable. Of course, they are not. But if you read the article written by my colleague, Danny Shea, that is linked right above, you will learn that a majority of the deaths are retaliatory.

Once again, there are no condolences here. Killing people is not right. But I hate when people think that St. Thomas is just a gang-affiliated, bullet hole-riddled crime scene.

It is so not. It is very beautiful and the people I have met are sincere.

But just like any place on this planet, there are some seedy neighborhoods. In those areas, people have guns. And sometimes, those people like to shoot them off.

No murders or confirmed shot victims were reported last night. So next time you hear gun shots in the middle of the night, do not fear the world is going to end. And please, cut the island some slack. After all, two cop cars reported to the scene about 20 minutes later -- not a bad response time on an island that is 11 miles long.

When I walked into the newsroom today, the reporter I texted the night before thanked me for the information.

"Anything come of it?" I asked.

"Nah, there were three other 'shots fired' reports on other parts of the island last night," he said. "But I went surfing this morning. There was a killer swell."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Killer surf, bro

I have two or three friends that ask me the same question every weekend:

"Good surf this weekend, why don't you come out?"

Maybe it's because I live on a tropical island or perhaps I just attract surfer types as friends. They are good people. Every one of them. But I'm more of a poser.

Instead, I like to go to rocky beaches, takes pictures of the crazy surf and show them the photos later on like, "Oh dude, you should have been there..."

Then they're like, "Oh dude, where is that? Crazy. That's like 4-5 feet..."

And then I'm like, "I know, bro. It was nasty."

Then the conversation starts to shift and I come off as a cool, surfer dude.

Nah, in all seriousness, I am definitely going to get out there soon. I have a feeling I would be good at surfing. So if any of you bros are reading, keep asking. One of these days I will surprise you.

The waves were killer on Friday at East Carrot Bay (above photo). I snapped the below photos at the tip of Peterborg. We had some first-time-to-the-island Brits with us (notice the white socks with colored stripes) and they were pretty impressed by our narly waves.

Got back in time for work so it was an epic morning. Peace out, dude.