Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nothing New, Just a Nice Pic

Nothing to add, just had another pic from Monday at the beach that I wanted to share.

This is the section of beach we almost always go to. Dorsch Beach, about a mile south of Frederiksted proper (as if there's anything proper about Frederiksted.)

We've always been beachophiles. Trips to Newport on the Oregon coast were practically a monthly event for us. Packing up the kids and usually the dog and the car and bringing a picnic lunch, then driving from Albany through Corvallis and Philomath and up into the coast range past a bunch of towns you've never heard of and even if you lived there probably never saw, until we finally came down out of the hills and the kids would lean forward staring to be the first to shout "I see the ocean!" Took about an hour, and when you got there it was always cold and usually rainy (very picturesque) and the water was a couple of degrees above freezing, Just talking off your shoes and wading was literally painful.

This stretch of beach is three minutes from our front door. Millie sometimes walks, but usually calls for a ride home because it's almost all uphill. The sun is almost always shining, there's hardly anyone on the beach, seriously, most days you can look up and down the beach a hundred yards and on a crowded day see a dozen people, maybe 18. And the water is as warm as a bathtub most days. You can see that catamaran I was talking about in the background.

Like I said, not much to add. Just wanted to post the picture.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And How Was YOUR Weekend?

Good weekend. Nothing huge or explosive. Actually quite the contrary.

The annual Ag Fest was this weekend, and I drew the straw and covered the opening day, Saturday. Ag Fest is just like what it sounds like, with a Crucian twist. It's St. Croix's answer to every county fair or 4-H gathering you've ever been to (and as a reporter on a string of small newspapers, I assure you I've been to plenty.) No elephant ears, but Johnny Cake, which are essentially big lumps of fried dough. Didn't see any deep-fried Snickers, but I'll bet there's no county fair anywhere in the Pacific Northwest featuring kalaloo or fungi.

The opening ceremonies were interminable, and as the reporter covering for the Source I had to be there. First, it started late. Let's be honest. Everything here starts late unless I happen to arrive late, in which case it miraculously starts on time. But since the 9:30 opening parade didn't start until 10:10, there wasn't much chance for the ceremony, which started at 1034 by my clock. By 11 they had introduced all the speakers and the various other officials and high muckety mucks and ... well, basically everyone there. By 11:30 they had finally presented the first award. I got a picture, and realized I had neglected to charge my camera. So, with all the information I needed in the program I'd bought at the gate, I wandered away for a while and joined Tori, who had dispaired of my ever leaving the stage area. We went off to explore.

I don't know if it's the nature of fairs or the nature of farm people. but this fair looked a lot like the Union County Fairs I used to cover in La Grande back in 1980. You want cows? They got cows. You want chickens or rabbits or goats? They got chickens and rabbits and goats. They've got the exhibition hall filled with displays by all the local schools illustrating the fair's theme. There was plenty of fresh produce to buy (we scored a bunch of great tomatoes) and merchants selling all kinds of stuff, from local crafts to clothes to music to you name it. And booths by local agencies, utilities, government groups etc. each eager to tell their story to anyone who made the mistake of slowing down while walking by.

We scored 16 pencils and pends, thee water bottles, three sewing kits, four tote bags, two note pads, some hand sanitizer and some information that will come in handy for Max's science fair project. It was fun. And Tori bought my birthday present, which I will endeavor to be surprised about on Wednesday.

As we prepared to leave we had to walk by the stage area, where I heard the governor starting his speech. He was the last speaker on the agenda for the opening ceremony. It was finay ending, two and a half hours after it began. They've got some serious tolerance for public speaking on this island. So I went back, listened, got a few more quotes and the other information I needed, and we left.

Sunday we wasted the day. And I mean, seriously wasted it. Except for driving around taking Millie to work and Max to a friend's house, we mostly sat and watched the entire second season of HIMYM. I worked editing for the Source that night, but if you asked what I did Sunday, I'd tell you "not much, and it felt great."

And Monday we spent the morning at the beach. Read a great book and got a little too much sun doing it.

There was a cruise ship dominating the seascape from where we were, about a mile or so from the pier. It's been a good year for cruise ships, Monday's was the third in a row. The bring in a couple of thousand (or more) tourists for a day who drop their money and enjoy the island. The population of Frederksted more than doubles while they're here. Sitting there watching it (and watching the tourists strolling down the beach, we commented again how these people had spent a year, sometimes much more than a year, to take a cruise to visit the island for a day. And we get to live here 24/7/365.

As I watched the cruise ship, I saw a catamaran come around the corner to seaward of the big ship. All its sails were set and it was making really good time. Within minutes it was directly off shore of us, dropping its sails. They threw out an anchor and became part of our backdrop. If the two, I'd much rather sail on a catamaran than a cruise ship. I don't like umbrellas in my drink.

Anyway, the photo attached shows Tori in the water with the cruise ship in the background and the cat to the left (south, for you geography nuts.) I kept shifting my position to get the boat directly behind Tori, but it was too fast. I finally settled for the image you see. It shows enough, I think.

Just another day in paradise.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sign of the Times

Driving home after taking Millie to work a few minutes ago, I was sitting at a stop light and saw one of the lanes ahead closed by traffic cones. There was a sign that said:

Slow Down
Machine Ahead

And I thought, as I'm sure you did, "Ah, the slow-down machine! THAT'S why things proceed at such a leisurely pace around here."

Couple of months ago I saw one similar. It said


You can guess what I mentally did with that one.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life is Good for Max, Too

I was not the only member of the family that spent an afternoon on the water this week. In fact Max, who is now 12, will be on the water every afternoon this week.

The sixth grade at the Good Hope School is spending the afternoons on Roseway, a 137-foot schooner built in 1920 in New England. Roseway is part of the World Ocean School. During late spring, summer and early fall she's in Boston. She winters in St. Croix, where she's available for educational purposes. The photo shows her at anchor in Christiansed Harbor, just off the fort.

Max and his classmates go out to Gallows Bay (what a great name!) at noon, board and set sail. Literally – the kids haul the lines and set the sails. So far they've been learning knots, navigation and the importance of Dramamine.

The taxi vans bring the kids back to school around 4, and they ooze off like a barrel of cold syrup, exhausted, but excited and ready to go back the next day.

How come we didn't have educational programs like this when I was in school? Oh yeah, wait. I went to elementary school in Chicago. If we'd had anything like this it would have been conducted on The Loop, not a schooner.

Maybe I can get Max to write something about the experience, but so far he's been so wiped out when he gets home he pretty much eats dinner and goes to bed. But he's up and rarin' to go the next morning.

You can read more about Roseway and her history here, and the World Ocean School here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life is Good

Sometimes that's all you can say. Life is good.

Monday morning I got an e-mail about a lionfish trapping project taking place at the Frederiksted Pier. I'm including a link to the story I wrote so I don't have to give a lot of background. If you don't want to read it (it's an interesting story, I think) just remember lionfish = bad.

The message gave a time of from 1 to 3 p.m.

I didn't know what to expect, but I figured a short little spiel for the press. They'd show off the traps, give the "lionfish = bad" rap, answer a few questions and go to work. So I drove down to the pier after lunch. Got there at 1 p.m. on the dot, but forgot to factor in parking. Ended up having to park three blocks away, and walked onto the huge concrete cruise ship pier at 1:07.

And saw a dive boat pulling away. Literally, 30 seconds later and I'd have been right there. But in life as in comedy, timing is everything. Assuming that was the lionfish project, I had just missed them.

I stood thee and stared, waving a little, hoping someone might glance back. Another boat pulled up to the pier, this a small, yellow inflatable motorized kayak looking thing. A young guy, mid-20s, got out and tied up.

"Do you know if that's the lionfish project out there?" I asked, pointing to the dive boat, which seemed to be stationary, about 100 feet off the end of the pier.

"Yeah," he said.

"Damn," I said.

He looked at me funny and I explained I was a reporter who had just missed my story.

"I can take you out to them," he said.

"Great! Let's go."

I scrambled down into his boat, which he explained was used for diving, and was designed for Navy SEALs, which would explain the large opening in the bow. The SEALs could enter the water without having to go over the side. He zipped it up, and we were off. The photo shows the nose of our boat with the dive boat dead ahead. That's what the picture shows, the approach to the dive boat.

Just moments later we were circling the dive boat, where a couple of the people aboard recognized me and waved us over. With permission to come aboard, I transferred my phone and camera to the safer Velcro pockets of my cargo paints and reached for the proffered hand that helped me step up into the dive boat. It turned out the hand belonged to a friend of Millie's, MacKenzie MacQueen. She's a senior at Good Hope, and a certified diver. The trapping project is actually her project for the school science fair, which is a very big deal at GHS.

Along for the ride were her dad Neil, who I've met before and is an interesting guy, the young lad Alex, another friend of Millie's from GHS, Dr. Coles from Fish and Wildlife, the guy piloting the boat, and another diver, Pete, hereinafter referred to as "the ancient mariner," not that he's any older than me, probably not quite as old and certainly in better shape. He's a real lionfish zealot, says he's personally killed more than 14,000 of the bastards.

The whole project is described in the article linked to above and I won't bother going over all that here. I could have shot the whole thing from the pier, watching as they circled around dropping the traps in specific locations, and gotten the information after they came back, or in a phone call.

But who wouldn't want to spend a chunk of the afternoon out on the water, sun shining but a breeze keeping the temp down. The water so damn blue I can't describe it. It was as bright as the blue of a particularly clean swimming pool, but a much darker shade.

And this way I got the story in a casual way, in bits and snatches of conversation rather than a more formal interview – not that there's anything terribly formal about my interviewing style. My very favorite interview of all time was when I got to interview a Nobel-prize winning physicist and started our talk by saying, "I have no idea what you do." He was so startled by my candor – and such a gentleman – that he tried really hard to explain his work and what it meant. Really nice guy.

But back to the point, they kept trying to convince me that I had to take up diving. I kept explaining that I'm not much of a swimmer, that if I go in the water and don't drown, that counts as swimming for me. They claimed that you don't have to know how to swim to be able to scuba, but it sure seems to me like something you ought to know before you take up diving. Maybe I'm missing something, but you're in the water, right? Like, way underneath it? I'm not convinced.

Anyway, in no time at all the traps were in the water and we headed back to the pier.

Being a reporter has its plus sides. Along with the usual crap, I've got to watch a couple of rocket launches, interview some celebrities and high muckety muck politicians and that Nobel winner and walk through a forest fire with a firefighting team. Met a lot of interesting people in interesting places. Got into Disneyland free several times.

But I'd have to put that hour on the water up there with any of it. Even given the serious subject matter (lionfish = bad) it was just a great, great way to spend the afternoon. And I got a good story out of it.

Monday, February 14, 2011


So who is that in the picture on the left? Me, or that other guy?

I mentioned earlier that on several instances since arriving on St. Croix I had been mistaken for another guy who apparently looks just like me. His name is Winegar, presumably that's his last name. People have called out the name to me as I drove by, walked up and asked if I remembered them, people who thought they had worked with me (him) sometime in the past.

They're convinced I'm him, surprised – even shocked – when they find out I'm not.

Well, it's still going on. It's happend three more times just since the first of the year, bringing the number of "Winegar incidents" to well over a dozen. I am, of course, guessing about the spelling of the name based on the pronunciation.

Here's what I know about him so far, based on what people have said when trying to prove they know me/him:

• He's got two sisters in Phoenix.

• He worked for a while at the Animal Welfare Center

• He worked more recently at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. May still work there.

• He appears to play a musical instrument, although I don't know what.

• He seems to be a nice guy, very friendly. No one has ever come up to me with a scowl and behaved angry, as if they had mistaken me for some jerk. No, it's always with a smile, as if they're glad to seem him after a long time. No one has ever shook his fist at me or demanded the money Winegar owes him. They're always happy to see him, or they would be if I were him.

And he must just be handsome as hell. After all, he looks just like me, apparently.

The obvious thing for me to do is call DPNR and ask if he still works there. If he does, ask to speak to him and settle this once and for all. But quite frankly I'm afraid to.

What if he does look just like me, but he turns out to be – by any objective standard – funny looking, odd, or old or fat or – you know – ugly? What would I do then? Do I want to take that chance?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Top Ten List

With apologies to both Dave Barry and Dave Letterman, here is The Top Ten List of things you see or hear often on the island of St. Croix that would also make a good name for a band.

10) Copulating Lizards

9) Sea Glass

8) Sheck Sheck and Flamboyant

7) Wild Dogs

6) Roadkill Iguana

5) Feral Chicken

4) Pothole

3) Dead Horse in the Water

2) Leatherbacks

And the No. 1 thing you see or hear a lot on-island that would make a good name for a band is –

1) I Smell Pot

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's That Time of Year

I'm really not an asshole. Really. I'm actually considered a very nice guy, sympathetic, caring.

But this is the time of year when I particularly enjoy having made the move to St. Croix.

When I'm in the car, listening to the radio, and someone from Oklahoma City says the snow is already up to her knees, I chuckle. When I hear that Chicago (where I was born and lived my first 10 years of life) is bracing for one of the 10 worst snowstorms in its history, I get a warm glow inside. I hear from our friend Larry in Nashville (where I lived five years) that he's expecting snow again there, I commiserate, but I can't help smiling. And when I check the weather in Oregon (where I lived more than 20 years) and see that the temp is 47 and might make it all the way up to 50 today, and it's raining (as if a cold rain in Oregon in February is news – a cold rain in Oregon in February was what made us decide to move here) I feel a deep, deep sense of satisfaction.

Granted, I don't get much kick out of the news from Los Angeles (lived in SoCal 10 years,) where the temp will be in the mid-60s again today. I've got to check the news about freeway traffic and earthquake predictions to get the same smug, self-righteous, innsufferable satisfaction, as if I'm somehow responsible for the weather here.

Right now, at 8:40 a.m., the temp on St. Croix is 77, and is expected to be about 84 by midafternoon. It's always about 84 by midafternoon. There's not a cloud in the blue, blue sky. Tonight's low is forecast at 72, which is a little chilly for these parts.

Sorry – I really, really am not an asshole. Making those comparisons is sort of the point. Yes, there are problems and occasional challenges to living here, but none of them have to do with snowstorms. I promise to write about one of them really soon, if that'll make you feel better.

Or wait until August and September. You can all get back to me while I'm sweating out another hurricane season. Except in parts of the U.S. you'll be sweltering in 100 + heat, and the headlines wll be about heatwaves, and here it'll be about 84 by midafternoon. I'll take that.