Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Loose cannon on the beach

Maybe he approached me because I was the only other white guy inside a packed gymnasium. Or maybe he just needed a friend?

Professional boxers are interesting people. Less than 24 hours earlier, Adam Schwartz attacked a St. Croix boxer during the Boxing In Paradise V weigh-in at Lindbergh Bay. The spectacle sparked some excitement for an event that was sluggishly blurred for me because of too many afternoon beers.

I grabbed a photo, that was published the next day in the paper. In plain sight of random tourists walking down the beach, Schwartz said something lethal to Austin Joseph, who was about to make his pro debut. After Joseph took offense, Schwartz kissed him on his face and then the abbreviated brawl was on.

It was the first professional boxing weigh-in I had ever covered. I had seen enough of them on TV and of course, it's always appealing to see two guys give a free sneak peak of the bashing that many will have to pay money to see the next day.

I had to talk to this loose cannon cowboy.

During our interview, I learned that he trained at a gym in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. that was coincidentally across the street from a dive bar I had visited several times. My boy, Chico, was a veteran bar back there -- I'm talking close to a decade -- so I was very familiar with it and the lunatics who drank there.

"I don't give a fuck," Schwartz barked. "I'm going to kill that bastard tomorrow night."

I hadn't even asked a question yet. Then I had to remind him that I worked for the newspaper and that our interview was completely on the record.

Somehow, the conversation quickly shifted to where he trained and the people he hung out with in Fort Lauderdale.

"Chico? I don't know any Chico -- he sounds like a douche bag," Schwartz said.

This was an interview about boxing yet we never really talked about the fight. I couldn't stop giggling at this guy. It was like the Great White Hype but this fool was a lot more cocky.

"What, you want to buy some ecstasy? I can get you weight," he bragged.

OK, that was first. I wondered how many times Max Kellerman was offered drugs by the pro boxers he interviewed during his illustrious journalism career.

Fast forward 24 hours. As expected, Schwartz got his ass kicked...

The bruiser had a reported MMA background and it was obvious seconds after the opening bell. Joseph knocked him to the canvas three times in the first two minutes and then it was all over.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog post.

I sat ringside and watched the main event bouts for the rest of the night. The V.I. boxers cruised and one of them, Julius Jackson, almost sent his helpless opponent into my lap. Photographer extraordinaire Thomas Layer captured the scene...

Completely rattled and I'm sure, a little embarassed, Schwartz emerged from the locker room all cleaned up and found me in between fights. He made immediate excuses for his pitiful showing but this time, I wasn't asking any questions. I had seen it all. Everyone did.

You could tell he had no idea what he had got himself into. And now, after the fact, he had no idea what to do with himself. Schwartz asked me what I was up to that night and I balked.

The fights were actually held the night before the St. Thomas Carnival Jouvert so it was sure to be an exciting evening on the Rock but I had no capacity for this loose cannon.

Just then, the professional boxer took a quick moment to pose with me for a photo. Either he will become a champion one day and this will be a famous picture or I'll be sending it to the Fort Lauderdale police department to prove his St. Thomas alibi when his drug dealing friends get killed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I love cops

These are tough economic times in the islands so a little league baseball team or non-profit organization selling water on the corner or at the intersection has become a mainstay on the lavish streets of St. Thomas.

Now the local swine have gotten in on the action.

While I was driving to work this morning, I was talking on the cell phone (Yes, guilty as charged) to the proprietor of a local beer-slinging establishment. I'm trying to get 20 cases of beer at cost for when 22 of my cousins visit next month...does that math add up?

Anyway, instead of declining on the exceptional offer of $1 for an ice-cold bottle of water, I came in direct eye contact with a local cop just standing on the side of the street. I think I actually switched hands with my cell phone while we shared a moment staring at each other.

His trained police response: He tapped on my car while I drove by and yelled, "Pull over!"

I contemplated a fierce getaway (I was mobile and he was just standing on the side of the road) but it was 10 in the morning on a Monday. Certainly, not the right time for a showdown.

I pulled into a nearby gas station, nonchalantly put on my seat belt and started to get my paperwork in order. But he never came. I rolled down my window and looked back for him and he motioned for me to exit the car and come to him, while still standing on the side of the road.

Right then, I knew I was dealing with a pure professional.

The following dialogue was the same interaction I've had with just about every traffic cop since I moved to St. Thomas in 2010. Almost verbatim.

Swine (while looking at my Maryland driver's license): How long have you lived here?

Ex-patriot: Only about a month, just for the season. (Even though my name has been printed up to three or four times in a daily newspaper for the last two years)

Swine: You know you're supposed to get a V.I. license after one month?

Ex-patriot: I was unaware of that, sir. I will drive to the DMV -- or whatever you guys call it down here -- right away. I will correct this problem. It's my mission in life.

(During our little exchange, about two or three different cars honk and wave at the cop)

Ex-patriot: You're pretty popular around here, huh? Do you help them sell water on the weekends?

Swine: Your court date is set for August 26. (The same day I leave for the Olympics)

Ex-patriot: Sounds good. I'll text you beforehand, maybe we can carpool?

He did not laugh, removed his sunglasses and gave me a sinister look that only a man above the law can give while standing on the side of the road.

I grabbed up the ticket, held back on my "nice doing business with you" remark and walked briskly back to my car.

Ahh, another Monday morning in the books and another traffic ticket.

I quickly called my beer-slinging accomplice back (after I was out of view of the stationary police officer of course) and closed the deal for the booze. One door closes, another one opens. Unfortunately, my credit card balance will take a hit on both ends.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Timing is everything

The summer is upon us on St. Thomas and that means only two things: sweaty morning runs and occasional 12-hour blackouts.

I was trudging up a hill near my house this morning when a co-worker pulled up aside me in his car.

Marcus Browne: What up, playa?

Sweaty, hyperventilating runner: Oh, what up, Marcus? You live around here? I live right up there...

MB: Yeah, man. Right down this road. It's a small island.

SHR: Cool, we should start hanging out. You know, outside of work.

MB: Yeah, mon. For sure. Enjoy your run.

He pulled away, I put my ear phones back in and continued my assault up the hill toward my house. When I got to the small street in front of my house, I started to walk and cool down.

Just then, a tree branch snapped about 20 feet above me and came crashing down with a huge iguana hanging on for dear life. The reptile absorbed the fall, left his defunct magic carpet (the tree branch) and quickly scurried back into the bush.

The iguana's crash landing happened about 10 strides directly in my path. If I hadn't stopped to talk to Marcus, the green bastard would have fallen right on my head.

It was an omen. Today is going to be a good day.

*   *   *

I'm in my office now and while in the process of writing this, Marcus passed by my desk and I told him the abbreviated story.

"That's crazy, man," he said. "You owe me."

*   *   *  

You think iguanas are nasty? Well, what do you think they taste like? Thanks to our friends over in Puerto Rico, you may already eaten it before and not known it. Check out this story.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Naughty by nature, not cause I hate ya

I don't really remember when I acquired the shirt.

I want to say it was in 1995 and I think I accidentally stole it from my best friend growing up, Travis Castleman, who is now married and the proud father of two.

As for me, no kids yet. I just brag about shirts that have been in the rotation for more than 17 years.

This was the scene on Saturday before a boat trip to Jost with Capt. Morgan and Ms. Carrie. Surrounded by beautiful women is just half of what I adore living on these fine islands.

I also love it when my continental friends send me photos and messages that bring me back to the States. It happened early Saturday as I was buying cheap beer and beef jerky at a neighborhood grocery store.

My good friends Dana and Doug, their daughter Kate, and Dana's father (who is one of the best hikers on the trail these days), who goes by the name Baltimore Bob, send me this photo while they were driving to a family retreat for the weekend.

Anything associated with a family retreat brings me joy. When you throw in some hard-core rappers from the 1990's, it just makes my day...

I immediately put on my favorite shirt. They had inspired me. Via facebook.

Who doesn't like Naughty By Nature? Everyone with their hands raised, please stop reading now and log on to weirdo.com. Never heard of them -- I do have some late bloomers reading these days -- then go ahead and get your google on.

My friend, the Hersh, told me they performed at the BVI Music Festival earlier this month. And I wasn't there? For shame.

OK. Kind of forgot what I was writing about or the point I was trying to make. But please take this away: I love my friends, they literally dictate my fashion choices for the day and I'm down with O.P.P. Yeah, you know me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

St. John shenanigans

Do you remember that last scene in The Hangover when they find the digital camera with all the images that shed light on the previous night's debachery?

Well, that happened to me on St. John a few weeks back. Just replace the digital camera with a big, clunky action sports camera and swap Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms with my island mates the Wolverine and Trish the Dish.

Here's the scenario: So I was having a few lunch-time brews at the Caribbean Saloon and in walked Wolverine and Trish. I tell them that I have to go to St. John that afternoon to shoot the final of a high school softball tourney and then decide to accompany me on this mission.

The game wasn't supposed to start until 8 p.m. That left several hours of trouble in between.

*   *   *

After finishing what I thought would be my final drink at Woody's, I decided it was time to put my game face on and go to work. The bar is about 75 feet from the ballpark so I started to pack up my gear before I heard a familiar moniker.

"Hey, newspapa mon?"

I turned around and the entire Kean High softball team was standing in front of Woody's. They were in full uniform and stared right at me.

"What's this?" I muttered and gave a quick look at my watch. "Did I miss the game?"

Nope. It had started to rain -- I didn't even notice -- so they postponed the championship until the next day. So you're telling me that I've been hangining around Cruz Bay, drinking all day for no reason at all?

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm telling you," the Wolverine said.

So as you can imagine, we made a full assault on the local pubs and it got a little hazzy after that. These are some of the photos I found on my camera the next day...

Other island mates Marcus, Moose and Ms. Jodie are also featured here. Did you see the really tan woman that looks like Carmen Diaz' roommate from There's Something About Mary? Yikes.

Also, the Dominicans on the ferry ride home were hilarious. When one of their buddies totally collapsed with his ass hanging out, they all just laughed. Thank goodness Ms. Jodie is an ER nurse.

Good times, for sure.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

He's back, baby!

OK, let me start off by saying I'm sorry. It's been nearly two months since my last post and there is only one reason for my absence.

Those of you who know me well understand what consumed my free time. It's been a tough run but I feel like I've finally turned a corner and I'm ready to write again.

Alright, it's time to come out with it.

I took a part-time job as a top secret agent and my first and only assignment was to infiltrate a group of rum-guzzling land pirates who roam the island countryside on motorcycles and wear black leather vests.

I know what you're thinking...HST's Hell's Angels. Yes, it was something like that but these guys were called the Caribe Riders and they don't brake for anyone.

The only problem was I got too close. I even got an over-sized tattoo on my back that looks like Queen Elizabeth riding on the handle bars of a motorcycle operated by Mitt Romney. The other Caribe riders didn't understand the joke -- neither did I -- but they let me in their gang anyway.

So, yeah. Now I got that going for me. Booyah!

And we now return you to your regularly scheduled program already in progress...