Friday, November 28, 2008


An interesting holiday, to be sure.

First, I'm sure there are Crucian Thanksgiving traditions, but I didn't learn them this year. I heard something about potato stuffing. In the store I saw yams bigger than my head – and I have a largish noggin! But we went very traditional this year. Turkey. Bread stuffing. Mashed potatoes. The green-bean thing with the mushroom soup and French fried onion bits (yes we could find them on the island! Surprised me, I'll tell you!) I've always assumed that recipe came from Minnesota.

But all was not smooth sailing. Two days before the holiday the water started spitting when you turned a faucet or flushed the toilet. II checked the cistern and it was full, so that wasn't the problem. Except, as it turned out, it was. We have two cisterns, and we'd been drawing from the back one, which when we opened it up was empty – an excellent place to store a body. Or a whole LOT of bodies.

So I learned a lot about the plumbing of the house in the next 12 hours. Tori figured out how to switch from one cistern to the other. I had to glue back a piece of PVC pipe that had come loose when the pump ran dry. Then I got to learn how to prime a pump.

It's not perfect. You've heard the phrase describing something as "being held together with baling wire?" Well, literally, that's what ours is like right now. Saturday I'll take it apart, re-glue it and put it back together. But that'll mean being without water for at least 24 hours. That takes a bit of planning.

Which means that "pie day" was delayed. Pie Day is the day before Thanksgiving when Tori and the kids make a dozen or more pies – sometimes a lot more. Once I think they made two dozen. This year, what with the late start, only seven pies were made. Which turned out to be more than enough.

Pie Day was also slowed down by the fact that Wednesday was also Alex's birthday. And the next day was Thanksgiving, which is Alex's very favorite holiday. Seriously, she likes it better than Christmas. It's always, all her life, been a time when we get together with crowds of friends (hence all the pies) and it means a lot to her.

Her birthday Wednesday, then her favorite holiday. So, naturally, she got sick on Tuesday. Spectacularly sick, with lots of throwing up and other unpleasantness. Which – let me tell you - was a LOT more fun with no running water for 12 hours. Poor kid. She couldn't have her birthday cake because she'd just toss it back up. She couldn't eat Thanksgiving dinner for fear the sight of the food would make her sick.

So that part of the holiday – not so good. But in all, it was a good day. We flew in an out of he kitchen in teams and shifts and singly putting together the meal, checking the water system, enjoying each other's company. The kids enjoyed the fact that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which in Oregon airs at 7 in the morning and they never see the beginning, any of it, aired at 11 p.m. here because of the time zones, so they enjoyed the whole thing. Had a delightful dinner and enjoyed each other's company very much.

Then Tori and I took our after T-day dinner walk. We've been doing that since we were first married. Sometimes with the kids, sometimes alone. This year we went alone, because instead of walking through the neighborhood in Oregon with the temp hovering in the low 40s, we were walking along a starlit Caribbean beach with the temp in the low to mid 70s. Who wants kids with you in those circumstances? Even when it rained a little (and with one empty cistern, we certainly didn't object to that) it was warm, and just enough to make skin glisten in the star light.

I can unequivocally state that it was the BEST post Thanksgiving dinner walk I've ever taken. I think the girl by my side agreed with me.

So Thanksgiving. What were we thankful for?

Running water. Health and the fact that Alex seems to be on the mend. Thankful for food and family, and for the friends who are far away but who we thought of a lot during the day we associate with them.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Timing is Everything

Except when camping, I've never used bottled propane as my cooking fuel. But when we moved into our home here, well, that's how you do it on St, Croix. So we contacted Antilles Gas Co. and ordered our first bottle - 100 pounds of gas. The big blue and silver tank sits out back where it's hooked up to the house. During the hurricane we made sure it was tied down securely, but other than that we haven't done anything to it except use it.

There's no gauge on it, so there's really no way of knowing when it's empty except sort of hefting it and guessing. When the guy delivered the first tank, he said it would last three months. That was in August. It's now been almost four months and there was no sign of it giving out, nothing you could tell. The flame didn't flicker any more than it had when we first got it.

But with Thanksgiving coming, we decided not to wait for trouble. The last think you want is for the flame to go out in the oven half way through cooking your turkey. (Yes, we've decided to go with turkey this year. More on that another time.) So I called the gas company and the guy came out.

Tori was here when he arrived. He unsecured the tank from where we'd tied it down, disconnected, and lifted it. And his eyes got big.

"This tank is empty!" he said with surprise. By that, he meant completely empty. As in, not one more meal could have been cooked by it. He rarely sees a tank that empty except when the resident makes a mistake - as we almost did - and runs out of fuel.

So we were lucky there. I had cooked dinner Sunday night and there was no sign that I was running on empty.

I cooked breakfast this morning an there was no difference in the blue flame from the stovetop.

Just lucky I guess. In life, as in comedy, timing is everything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Find That Very Odd

I've got CNN on while I work this morning, and they ran that ad again – the ad extolling the joys, the adventure, the sheer DELIGHT of taking your family on a vacation to beautiful Nebraska.

Nebraska??? I live in the freakin' Virgin Islands!! Nebraska??!? Let's see – Virgin Islands? Warm, beautiful beaches, balmy temperatures, deep, deep blue waters, friendly smiling people, tropical rain forest. Nebraska? Prairie. Rolling fields of wheat. Tornadoes. Raging blizzards. Have I missed anything?

I'm just not sure why the Nebraska tourism people even bother running the ad here. Sure, maybe if you lived in some rusting old industrial city with a winter composed of three months of howling bleak frozen nothingness, maybe Nebraska would look good. But in the Virgin Islands? The worst thing I can say about this place is a lot of people here seem to think Coors Lite is beer.

I think my family drove across a corner of Nebraska 40 years ago on our way home from Yellowstone. That's about right, a dozen or so miles of Nebraska every half century or so.

As I recall, the Nebraska rest areas were very clean. That counts for something.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Milestones and Holidays

Many things to talk about.


Two weeks ago we found a place to take the kids Trick-or-Treating for Halloween. Up to an hour or so before we left I didn't think that was going to happen, but Tori was determined. There's a housing development near the refinery – owned by the refinery, as it turns out, with a terrific view of the refinery (if that's what you want) – that seemed almost Southern Californian. All the houses almost identical, only differences being the foliage and the slight angles or distances they were set off from the road. Kids all up and down the streets, which were closed to traffic. It seemed almost like something from the states. That didn't mean much to Tori and me, but it was nice for the kids. Not everything from their lives has been changed.

Four months

The next day, Nov. 1, we were driving somewhere and I turned to Tori and said, "Happy anniversary."

"What?" she said.

"We've been here four months now."

She thought about it, then turned back to me.

"Is that all? It seems like we've been here longer."

It does, she's right. We live here, it's home now. We're settled in, know where we're going when we get in the car. Know what to expect from traffic (basically, we know you can never anticipate what traffic is likely to do.) We have our places we like to go, people we know, stuff like that. It seems like we've been here a lot longer than four months. But that's the truth of it. She got off the plane with her mother and our son Max on July 1. That's four months.

And counting.

Election Milestone
Election night was something, wasn't it?

We were glued to the TV, enjoying every minute of the big news.

But whether you supported Barack Obama, as we did, or preferred Sen. McCain, you can't deny it was a breathtaking moment. Let me share just a little bit of he reaction here on the island, where the population is 76 percent black. VI residents can't vote in the U.S. presidential election, but we sure felt a part of it here. I've seen more Obama T-shirts here than I did on the mainland, and people here contributed to the campaign even though they couldn't vote.

On election night we spent an hour at an Obama victory party at Pier 69, a restaurant/bar in Frederiksted. The woman who owns it was dancing, her arms raised in the air and shouting, "I'm 64 years old and this is the most important day of my life!" There was a woman there who said not only had she not ever thought she'd live to see a black U.S. president, her 22-year-old daughter had said the same thing. Her five daughters, by the way, all live in the states and all voted for Obama.

Another woman said she couldn't help thinking about the old Danish fort just a few hundred feet from where we sat. For centuries African people had passed through the fort in chains, bound for slavery in the sugar can fields. Some no doubt were moved on to the states, where now their progeny were lining up to vote for a black man for president.

It's hard to overstate how much last week's election meant to so many people all around the world, even those who couldn't vote.

We got home just in time to see the projection – CNN Projects Barack Obama is Next President of the United States" and opened the bottle of champagne we'd bought fr the occasion.

Somehow it felt even more important to me for having spent some time with my neighbors at Pier 69.