Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Running 8 Tuff Miles

I've been on the sideline and covered the St. John 8 Tuff Miles Road Race the last two years with the other hired geeks. This year, the race director talked me into running the event and once the boss heard of this, a first-person column was in the works.

My man Thomas Layer took some killer photos. All I had to do was run the bastard.

Much easier said then done. For those people not living here, let me try my best to describe this very unique race: It's freaking hard. Five miles of all uphill -- about 1,400 feet of total elevation is climbed in the race -- then the last three miles is mostly downhill.

This race is not for the phony tough. Only the crazy brave. The day after it was all over, I could barely walk but I sauntered into my office and tried to make sense of it all.

An excerpt from my column about the race: "I thought there's no way I would be able to watch Zuber finish (unless I cheat - an idea I momentarily contemplated), but if I finish before Zuber's girlfriend, then I can still be a champion.

She didn't know it then, but Michelle became my racing rival at that exact moment. Lots of people listen to music to get focused, some meditate. For me, I just chase other people's girlfriends up and down treacherous hills for 8.375 miles."

Here are the links to my column and the official race story.

If any of you runners out there want a Caribbean challenge, this would be a great time to make a visit. If you just like to sit around and drink beer, of course this place is good for that, too. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You can't make this shit up

Got this photo from a friend and she claims it was taken on St. Thomas. I don't know whether to laugh or cry...

I called the corporation phone number and it didn't connect. Sounds Filet-O-Fish fishy...

I was going to blog about how pathetic the McDonald's restaurants here are. The whole concept of fast food escapes the employees on island. Sitting in the drive-thru (even if there's just one or two cars ahead of you) is a death sentence.

Pick-up orders can be worse because you can actually look over the counter and witness the morons in action.

When it comes down to it, I shouldn't eat that crap anyway. But for a deadline writer on an island known for convenience, it's either Mickey D's or cardboard pizza from a gas station. You make the call.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Super Bowl in paradise

It's been three weeks since the New York Giants won the Super Bowl and I'm still riding that wave.

I ordered the Sports Illustrated subscription with the free Giants swag, reluctantly removed the Giants logo as my facebook profile picture and now a guy named Jeremy Lin has quickly become the new king of New York.

Funny how fast things can happen.

But before I turn my Sunday sports attention toward PBA Bowling, I wanted to put a few photos up that documented that glorious February night in the Caribbean.

First, it all started out with a pig roast at the Dog House Pub. Check out what the cook wrote near the pig's ass. (From the Simpsons: the best meat is in the rump).

They set up some projector screens at the pub and of course the party started early. I started to grab random rastas. Usually, that is not a smart move but my team was in the Super Bowl, bitch. Just like Big Ern McCracken, I was finally above the law.

Then Eli Manning did what he does best and rallied the G-Men back in the fourth quarter. It was a great moment in sports and definitely something I will remember for years to come (even though I had to watch SportsCenter the next day to confirm it actually happened).

The week leading into the big game, lots of people knew of my allegiance to Big Blue and wondered where I would watch the big game.

On a small island, this can be a tough decision. Few options.

I considered locking myself in a dark room with just a chair and a television. Then Brianna suggested we have people over and have a small party -- nothing serious.

I was cool with the idea until I realized my potential for disaster. This wasn't just your typical Super Bowl. For Christ sakes, my team was in it, so this was serious. Very serious. Not sure if I could handle the emotional ups and downs of my team in the Super Bowl with house guests just watching my every move. Nope, not going to happen.

Met a guy who was running a boat trip to Jost and watching the game with a projector on the beach. I've been to Jost many times. I actually got kicked off of Jost once. Yeah, I'm sure I blogged about that little excursion. This plan seemed like pouring gasoline on the fire.

My only retreat was a local bar. And not just any bar...

Pedro (upper right corner) is the owner of the DHP and a solid Giants fan. I knew I could find refuge there regardless of the score. Later on, when Pedro was dancing on the bar, he hurt his knee and was on crutches the next day. Small price to pay, my friend.

The Giants brought us together and the Eli Manning rasta knew how to keep the celebration party going.

Somehow, I found my way to Betsy's Bar for a nightcap and the Super Bowl party continued. There may not be a lot of Giants fans on the Rock, but that didn't stop me.

So for the rest of you football fans on island or across the globe, you can suck it. Giants are the Super Bowl champions. And that is my Super Bowl blog post. Did you have a good time? I sure did.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Eating kangaroo

I had to work late on Valentine's Day so I decided to step out with my lady the night before and we wanted to go big.

I heard the Old Stone Farmhouse, which is in between Mahoghany Golf Course and Magens Bay, was the top-ranked restaurant out of 120 restaurants reviewed on St. Thomas. This, according to the good people at Trip Adviser so I guess we were still rolling the dice.

It was quite grand. I almost spent about half my paycheck there but it was worth it and I will be back again.

My lady ordered elk, lamb and get this: kangaroo. Her carnivore appetite spiked when we walked into the kitchen -- think very fine dining here, not grease monkey bar food -- and were given a mini tour of what was on the grill that night...

I took on one of their Thai curry bowls with tofu. Pretty weak, I know. But I figured I could pick off my lady's plate and that way, we could get the best of both worlds.

They had complimentary valet service, which was one of many nice touches and they encouraged people to tag the walls in the kitchen with Sharpie markers.

We ordered a nice Malbec from Argentina and we soaked up some hot sauce-dipped frog legs (also a first for me) and seasoned scallops before the hammer came down.

The meat was cooked to perfection and the kangaroo was the best piece of animal flesh I've ever consumed. The curry sauce opened my sinuses and I couldn't hide the sweat beads on my forehead (which means it was damn good).

Had some apple cinnamon flan for desert but the caffeine from my Bailey's and coffee kept me up watching Teen Mom 2 until 2:46 a.m. Clearly, the only sad part of the evening.

Overall Review: It may be the best restaurant on this island. Bring a full wallet, a lust for flesh and you'll have a very memorable night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beauty unscathed

I was talking with a colleague the other day and as journalists do, we were having a conversation about what we're doing or what we'd like to do after our job at the VI Daily News.

It's a natural vibe to talk about the future and what we can offer. My co-worker is very skilled and he had big plans. As do I. He's a good guy and for a good reason, I feel utterly comfortable to open up to him about what is happening in the journalism world and what we can bring to the table. But later in the day while driving, I reflected on what we said and I pulled over for an impromptu and seemingly brief moment of clarity.

I realized -- well not not exactly -- but came to a stumbling conclusion that I need to soak up this moment and appreciate that I was (am) in this particular part of the world at this time in my life.

I feel that at times, people around me and that associate with me really don't value what we have and the extreme pleasure we have in just making a living on this island.

When I look back on college, high school, taking the JOBO test in elementary school (sidenote: I literally asked my teacher what a disc jockey was because that was the No. 1 profession that matched up with my "test" results back in 1989) -- I never even assumed, predicted, even associated the U.S. Virgin Islands with my future, much less a stepping stone to my transgression through professional life.

I (we) live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and no matter how many times my water doesn't work, I sit in remedial traffic on a two-lane road or talk to sun-burned tourists, it shouldn't get old. It just keeps getting amazing. And I (should) appreciate every single moment of it.

Sorry for being preachy but I had to lay this down. I love living here and for the rest of my days, I will always look back on my time here in the Caribbean as a time I did not take for granted.

This is what it looks like when it rains when the sun is shining in paradise:

Peace be with you and good night.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No horseplay

I covered the local horse races last Sunday on St. Thomas and after I finally got back to my house later that night, I caught the new HBO series Luck. Which, coincidentally, is all about horse racing.

In the show, there are what appears to be polite, well-spoken jockeys who race million-dollar horses down a track surrounded by beautiful landscapes and big-money gamblers.

On St. Thomas, it's a little different but I'm not complaining.

First of all, every race day snarls traffic on the nearby road and I usually have to park a half a mile away in a muddy, sideways ditch. After I walk to the ticket window, the event staff criticizes me because I never produce the right media credentials, yet I'm holding a huge camera because, you know, I just like carrying a huge camera around with me.

"What, is there actually other media here?" I routinely ask.

They never give me the race card for free and usually shake their heads when they look over my race day attire: faded V-neck shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops.

In Rock City, everyone puts on their Sunday best for race day. The fashion is so majestic that it drowns out the smell of horse feces near winner's circle.

Trying to grab an interview with the winning owner or trainer after a big race is comical. You have to burn the first two questions because all these guys want to do is talk shit about the other owners and trainers. Question 3 is usually when the real interview begins.

Because I don't care much, I ask the same questions every time with a fake smile, soak up what I can and get the hell out of there...

Wow, what a race? How did you guys pull it off?
Talk about your jockey, he sure did a fantastic job?
What was the game plan: start out fast or close hard?

Most of the answers are filled with ridiculous cliches and that's if I can make out what they're saying at all. When I go back to listen to the recordings, I always hear idiots in the background yelling shit. For some reason, they always mistake a voice recorder for a video camera. And if I did work for the TV station, do you think your chances of getting on TV improve when you act like a jackass?

Somewhere in this photo is a winning horse, the jockey who rode him to glory and a bunch of random people.

On Luck, they have colorful flowers around the perimeter of the track and nicely-designed walkways. On St. Thomas, the island's waste dump can be seen on the horizon and muddy trails blend into, well, a muddy standing area.

The worst part is the horses that run here were usually purchased cheap out of the States because they are already washed up. The horsemen here just pump them full of drugs and try to squeeze two or three races out of them before they break a leg. Then they are executed while lying on the track in agony.

In Luck, the same thing happened this past episode, but a doctor calmly administered a lethal needle shot and they brought out a tarp to shield the audience from the horse's demise. Come to think of it, it looked like the same tarp the roadside workers on St. Thomas use. Interesting connection.

A lot of people on island love horse racing. I guess that's why I cover it. So I hope they don't read my blog. And if they do, come by and say hello during the next day of races. I'll be the only white guy there so I'm easy to spot out. Plus, I'll be wearing flip flops in the mud.