Friday, August 22, 2008

Fay? No Fay here

Posted by John Friday afternoon

I've had several phone calls with people stateside in the last couple of days, and they all ask if we survived Hurricane Fay okay.

Just so you're not worried, Fay was a non-issue here. About a week or so ago we caught on outrider of the gathering storm, and got some rain and a terrific lightning and thunder show over the water. But that was it. Nothing to write home about,and we hope it stays that way.

Fay apparently started forming up south of here and blew by without much notice. We're still learning the ins and outs of hurricane season. Apparently there's "unsettled weather," then a tropical disturbance when it starts forming into a storm. That's what we caught the edge of. Then it goes up to tropical storm as it gains momentum and wind speed, and the circular pattern begins.When the wind hits 50 mph, it's a hurricane.

We've started getting supplies ready "in case." We've got about three days of water stored away, and we'll begin laying in some canned goods and a camping stove soon. When hurricanes actually are about to hit, WAPA (the Water and Power Administration) shuts off the power so that when lines get blown down (and they will get blown down) and the power goes out, there won't be problems when the power comes back on. So even though our stove burns propane (we've got a hundred pound tank out back) the stove also requires electricity.

We're hoping it's like when the weather looks dicey and you take an umbrella. As long as you've got an umbrella, it won't rain. Mother Nature only dumps on you when you forget the bumbershoot. We're preparing for a hurricane, so with any luck that should keep one from happening.

So no, there were no problems from Fay here. The cluds blocked us from watching the Perseid meteor shower, but the lightning show made up for it.

On another note, my DSL was supposed to be hooked up by yesterday. But it turns out there's not an available access port, so they've got to install one and it's going to take another week. Damn!! I am SO ready to not be sitting in this plaza (a very nice plaza, but still) and using a free wireless connection. It's kind of a pain.

Soon come.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It Feels Bad

The following is Tori's (Mad Sally's) response to last week's mugging of our daughters.

So much has happened.

We found a place to live, I got a job teaching at the Manor School and I saw a giant manta ray while snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea.

But I feel so bad.

As my girls, Kate Millie and Alex were walking to the corner store to get a candy bar around 7:30 pm, they were accosted by a street punk on a bike. He held a gun to my sweet Millie’s head and said, “Give me your fucking money!”

The girls were dumbfounded. They were only a block away and it was barely dark out.

He grabbed Millie’s purse off her shoulder, which had a total of 22 dollars, her sunglasses, the book she was reading (it was an old copy of “The World According to Garp.” If it had been the new Stephanie Meyer’s book, “Breaking Dawn,” I am certain she would not have given up her purse without a fight) and some irreplaceable pictures of her best friends. The little bastard didn’t take Kate or Alex’s purses, although he snarled at them like an animal and moved toward them as if he were going to strike, but backed off and rode away at the last second.

We filed a police report and the girls looked at some mug shots at the St. Croix police station, but they’ll most likely never catch him.

I don’t even want to think about what could have happened, so I won’t. I can’t. It tears me up inside when my mind goes there. I am so thankful that my girls are okay. Shook up and jumpy, but otherwise fine. I just feel angry that this happened at all. I feel ashamed that I wasn’t there to protect them. I feel intense rage that some little punk-ass bitch is running around with a gun in my neighborhood terrorizing little girls and fucking with my family.

And I feel terrible that my paradise has been sullied. Suddenly the roosters that crow at midnight are no longer endearing. They annoy me. All those mosquito bites I have endured laughingly suddenly burn and itch like never before. And the lightning storms which were beautiful and powerful a few days ago are today scary.

I know with time we will forget about it, as we should. While I want to put it on the back burner of bad memories, I want to remember the lesson: Never be complacent about my family’s safety ever again. We now lock our gates up tight at dark. Today I bought pepper spray for all the girls. Tomorrow we will look up self-defense classes and over the next few months and years, we will learn how and when to fight back.

The girls did everything they were supposed to do. Don’t engage, just give them the money. But should they ever need to defend the thing that really matters, I want them as prepared as they can be. I don’t like feeling helpless and I don’t want my family living in fear. Ever. So rusty cutlasses and fake powder pistols aside, we will do something real about it. I’m not just going to sit around and hope and pray it never happens again. And I am not so vain to believe that having a little pirate in me is enough to protect me and mine. Being a pirate does, however, spur me into action and keep me from cowering in the dark. If we are ready for it, it will never happen again.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A very scary night

Wednesday was a good day. We had several things happen that would have been good subjects for this blog. It was a good day. Then, after dinner Alex, Kate and Millie decided to walk up to the store on the corner to get a snack. They didn’t know if it was still open, but they thought it might be. And it’s only a hundred feet or so from our house, just south down the street, so it’s not like it would be a big deal if it were closed.

They left the house at 7:45. The sun was already gone, it gets dark early here. I was on the porch with Tori and Janet, each of us enjoying our favorite bad habit. (We were having a cigarette.) As I stood there I happened to notice a bike go past fast, heading north. I had an impression of a bike, and a white T-shirt. Then the phone rang.

It was Millie on her cell phone. Her voice sounded tiny as she said, “Someone stole my purse,”

“What?” She repeated it, and I was already heading south down the street, walking fast. Tori started to cfollow, then thinking more clearly then I did, went back for the car.

I got there and the store was closed, Alex and Kate were standing on either side of Millie with their arms around her, and she was shook up.

Alex filled me in. Some kid, not older than they are, had pedalled up on a bike, pulled a gun on them and said “Give me your fucking money.” They froze, mostly unbelieving. He repeated himself, then grabbed Millie’s purse, pulling it off her shoulder, and rode off. Right up our street. The kid in the white T-shirt I had just seen.

I called 911. Ironically, one of the reasons we had liked the neighborhood is because the police station is just two blocks away. I finished with the call and the operator said she’d send someone. At that moment Tori pulled up and got the kids in the car. Got me in the car. I told her the police were coming and we should wait. It seemed like it took hours, maybe days for them to arrive, but they were there within five minutes. Corporal Cornelius got a quick description from the girls and two other cars took off to see if they could find anything. I wasn’t surprised that they couldn’t.

We were there with the police about 45 minutes giving them the story. Then the investigator arrived and asked them to come back to the station with him for a complete statement. I came home, because we’d left Janet with Max and a very incomplete story.

If they choose to write about it, you’ll get a lot more detail from them. I heard the story three times, once from each of them, and I’m still hazy on the details. It’s kinda hard to focus on words when you’re dealing with something like that.

Why did I let them go to the store? I had heard about not walking around after dark. Why didn’t I at least go with them? I know, I know. It wasn’t my fault. Not their fault. It was the fault of some kid, not more than 16 or 17, who could think of nothing but to do that ride around with a gun and jack around with some girls. But that doesn’t make it any easier in retrospect.

So what do I tell my daughters? Especially Millie, who hasn’t been happy here yet and who just stared down the barrel of a gun wielded by a kid not much older than her, and probably just as scared.

They did exactly the right thing. They weren’t alone, they had each other, but that wasn’t enough. They didn’t argue. They didn’t fight. Millie gave him her purse. She lost about twenty two bucks, some sunglasses, her wallet and maybe some makeup. A VERY small price to pay. A terrible lesson learned. Yes, that could have happened anywhere, probably did happen simultaneously elsewhere in the world. I worked on the paper in Albany 13 years and I know that kind of stuff happened all over there, too. The fact that it never happened to my family doesn’t change the fact that it happens a lot there.

But all of that requires a bit more perspective than I’m able to muster right now, and even if I could say that, I wouldn’t. Because it didn’t happen there. It happened here. It happened to my girls. We’d been having a good day, and then this. And I’m really pissed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kate’s assessment of things to date

Posted by Kate

Yo’kay, the new house is pretty cool. At least there’s room for all of us. Just this morning a lizard the size of my hand was in Al’s room. It was either a big anole or a small Iguana, either way I managed to touch its tail a bit before it scampered away. No idea how it got in.

In other news, I’m working on a few books. That’s right! I’m actually being productive! One is a book on toon theory, and the other is about a coven of wiccans who meet on the internet. Both are WIP at this point, and one is still in my head.

Speaking of wicca, I’ve been studying it more prominently lately than before. It’s really something I can get behind of all the religions and philosophies I’ve studied. It encourages free will, supports equality for all, and is aware that it isn’t the only way to live your life.

Go on, I dare you to judge me ... on second thought, don’t. Just keep it all in your head and then release it somewhere else on the internet so no one will know it’s you, just like the rest of the world.

Hmm, I wonder how many people I’ve made mad from that last comment.

So, to distract from it, I’ll point out that as I type this I’m watching the Olympics. The opening ceremonies are too awesome for most words, I only have a few statements about it. First, take that Athens, and second, I feel sorry for London.

Getting the hang of it

Posted by John

It still feels odd from time to time to drive on the left side of the road, but I’ve mostly gotten used to it and I haven’t been getting lost at all lately.

Driving the other day on North Shore Road, which winds around the coast – some incredibly beautiful seascape. As I rounded a bend and entered a short straight away, a car came around the bend about 100 yards ahead of me and headed straight for me.

“Oh gosh, I did it again!” I thought to myself. But I looked down and, no, I was in the correct lane – on the left side of the road. Just as I realized this, the other driver did too. The other car suddenly jerked sharply to the right (my right, of course, not his) and drove past me in the correct lane.

I had to laugh, and think to myself, “Tourist!”

I guess I’m getting the hang of this.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Wow!" at Turtle's Deli

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur, August 6

It’s been unusually chaotic the last couple of days, even by our standards. We moved from the vacation villa to the house with a six-month lease.

It’s a nice house, and well within our price range, Unfurnished, so we’ve had to do a lot of scrambling. Several trips to Kmart (don’t skoff - Kmart is pretty much IT on St. Croix, we’ve got two of them! It’s the place to go for a lot of the stuff you have to have for a home.

Tuesday was the most hectic day. I figured we didn’t want to cook dinner (especially since the guy from the propane company STILL hasn’t delivered our gas, so we can’t cook on the stove yet.) Someone had told me that Turtle’s Deli in nearby Frederiksted was the best place on the island for a sandwich, so off I went to pick up dinner for the family.

Well, the sandwiches were everything we’d been promised. It was a much more complete deli than I’d expected. But even better that the sandwiches were the couple – Bob and Mary – who own the place.

As soon as they heard we were new on island, the stories and advice started pouring out of them. As they sliced meat and cheese, spread mustard and all the rest, they told us how they’d come to be here, how glad they were we’d chosen the west side of the island (I’llo post something about the east/west split soon.) Schools. Shops. Everything.

And they wanted to k now about us. I mentioned that Tori is a teacher with a special ed background looking for work and Mary immediately suggested a school, sort of an alternative school that her children used. It’s a great place, she said, the woman who runs it is fantastic, and they just lost two teachers so Tori should call right away.

I asked Bobif there was a place in Frederiksted that had wireless – an Internet cafĂ© sort of deal. I’ve been using a spot in Christiansted, but it was sort of inconvenient on the other side of the island.

“Right here,” he said. “I think I’m the only one in town. You have to supply the computer, but my wireless is usually up and usually works.”

Wow. This was turning into one of the best errands I’d ever run.But I had an uneasy feeling. I glanced around the shop and realized I didn’t see any Visa signs. I was planning to pay with my credit card, but there was no sign they accepted it.

“I probably should have asked this before you started making the sandwiches,” I said, “but do you take plastic?”

“No,” he said. Problem. But then he said, “I do take IOUs.”

He said he’s taken checks from all over the world (tourists) and almost never been stiffed. He’s taken IOUs from people off a tour ship he returned home and mailed him cash. People haven’t taken advantage of him, hardly ever, and he just preferred to do business that way. He wrote up the bill, I signed it, and he said, “Come back anytime this week and we’ll be fine.”


Then Mary took the receipt back and scribbled on it –– the name and phone number of the school where Tori should apply.

And when I got home, the sandwiches were excellent. Too big, I’m about to have the second half of mine for lunch today. But excellent.

Tuesday was also the birthday of our son, Jack (yes, he's Jack Baur.) 26. How did that happen. He did NOT make the move with us, he recently finished grad school and is making his own life. He just moved to the Bay Area.

And damn, we miss him! Happy Birthday Jack!!


One Month! And Counting

Written by John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur, July 31

First month under our belts. What have we accomplished so far?

Let’s see. We’ve bought and insured a car. We found a longterm place to live. We acquired some furniture and some friends. We’ve certainly gotten to know the island, driving all over in search of those things.

Tori has applied for several jobs and has good prospects at a couple of schools. I actually found a job, writing for the island’s online newspaper, the St. Croix Source. It won’t make us rich, but it’ll help pay the bills.

More still to do, but it’s a start.

Bits and pieces

I had commented to the Realtor who was driving us to look at the wrong house that few streets had names, but even those that did, no one seemed to know. In getting directions several times I’d said something like, “Okay, so I take 70 down to Emancipation Road ...” and the person I was talking to had said, “Oh, I don’t know names or numbers. Just drive past the police station and turn right.”

“No, people usually use landmarks,” the Realtor had said, pointing out the old rusted water tank that was often an important landmark in that part of the island. “When I first got here, someone was giving me directions and told me to drive until I came to the field where the horses used to be.”


Lot of wildlife on the island. There’s a stretch of road near here that I’ve driven by almost every day, twice a day coming and going, and there’s always goats right along the side of the road. A dozen or so, grazing, oblivious of the cars flying past. I’ve taken to calling it “Goat Alley.”

Chickens everywhere, apparently running wild. No one seems to own most of them. Our friend Daryle warned us, “Never feed the chickens. If you do it once, you’ll have 40 chickens at your house twice a day, at 10 and 4, waiting for food. It was costing me $10 a week in chicken feed.”

I love watching the hermit crabs scuttling along the deck here. If you walk past them, they immediately tuck into their shells and roll over as if saying, “Nothing here but a rock! No need to try to eat me! I’m a rock!”

Lots of birds. I’ve always thought of pelicans as sort of comical birds, probably from their depiction in the cartoons of my youth, but they’re amazing flyers and fishers. Watched a frigate bird last night, holding his place in the sky almost effortlessly for more than 10 minutes as he kept on eye ion something below.

And we saw a deer the other day. Honest to god, I couldn’t have been more surprised.

Still to do

Biggest thing on the list is to get the kids settled. You’ve probably read their posts – Kate and Millie, especially the latter, but all of them really, haven’t really accepted the move, accepted that this is home. They’re still looking back, at what they’ve left, not forward at what’s to come. It’s understandable. Tori and I both moved fairly often while we were kids. We do understand how hard it is for kids. But they’ve got to try a little. Right now they spend most of their time watching TV, reading and sleeping.

In part, Tori and I have been so busy trying to get the family established here that we haven’t been able to spend as much time helping them through this as we’d like to. Millie, who writes the most dogmatically about hating all of this, has actually done the most. She has gone with us on many expeditions, and has taken to doing a lot of baking –and for the most part is really good at it. It’s something she can do. Alex, except for one brief and not successful job attempt (I wish she’d write about it, it’s a funny story) spends almost all day sleeping. We’d like to take her on some of our errands, but we can’t wait until 4 p.m. to start the day. Kate watches TV, and Max, as the youngest is the most malleable. He trusts Mom and Dad that this will all work out.

Janet has also been a concern. She has good days and bad days – both physically and in attitude – usually on the same day. She tries, but she’s limited in what she can do and over the course of a dayshe gets tired, then the kids start to wear on her, then she starts wearing on the kids, until by evening no one is really happy.

We’re here. We’re going to be here for a while. We’re together, we’re a family. We need each other. Everyone needs to accept those things, or everyone is going to be miserable. We’ll work it out, it’ll take a little time is all.

Teenage Insomnia

Written by Millie, July 29

It’s two in the morning, and I can’t sleep.

Lately, I haven’t been able to fall asleep until close to four or five in the morning.

I toss and turn (and drive Kate crazy) until I finally sink into the shallow recesses of sleep.

This is made worse if I don’t talk to Jesse before I go to bed. It just feels wrong not to hear his voice before I try to sleep.

I miss him more than ever. There isn’t much that can distract me from thinking about him. I sit and read all day to try and escape into another world, and it works for the most part. But the second my eyes leave the page, my mind goes straight back to Jesse.

My birthday is coming up. In less than a month, I will turn 16. I should be excited, but the thing I want most for my birthday is the thing I am pretty confident I won’t get.

I want to go home.

I want to spend this milestone birthday with my friends.

Even just for a little while, I want to go and see my friends and the people I love. I miss them, and I can’t stand being away from them.

I have cried almost every night since I got here. I wish I had my own room again so I could be free to go to pieces in private, but I have to deal with Kate coming in at random times, so that freedom is denied to me. I don’t like crying in front of other people when I can’t even explain to them why I am crying.

I love my family, but I want other company than them, and to be honest, I don’t want to deal with meeting more people that I am just going to leave in two years. Mom and Dad keep insisting I go out and meet people, but I don’t want to make friends with people that I am just leaving. I don’t want to have to do that again. It hurts too much.

Mom had said it was a possibility to send me back for my birthday a few months ago when I first broached the subject, but I don’t know if she’s even thought about it at all since then. I doubt she even remembers.

What I wanted to do was stay in Albany until the end of the summer so I could spend my birthday with my friends without the cost of flying me back and forth, but they weren’t too keen on that.

I haven’t told anyone about wanting to go home for my birthday. I guess I’m writing it down here because I know that Mom and Dad will read it. And because I can’t sleep and they have been asking me to write another blog for a few weeks.

If I don’t go home for my birthday, I won’t see anyone from Albany until Christmas, when Jesse and his family come to St. Croix. I don’t want to wait until Christmas, and although Jesse is my main motivation for going, I want to see my other friends as well.

Unless Jesse packs my best friends in his suitcase, I don’t get to see anyone else until March or June. These aren’t completely random dates, I promise. March is mine and Jesse’s one year anniversary, and June is his graduation. I’m going to one or both.

Time for me to go back and lay down. I would say time to sleep, but I know I won’t. Not only do I suffer from teenage insomnia, but I have really bad cramps. I swear they are worse than they are on the mainland.