Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And Even More Orchids

Finally (maybe, probably) two more pictures from the orchid show last weekend. These are two of my favorites. In case anyone is wondering why I haven't included the names or varieties of any of these flowers, it's because I don't know them. There are more than 30,000 varieties of orchids, and yes, they were probably written on little cards in the displays, but I wasn't paying attention to that. I just thought they were pretty.

I like the blush on this last one, as if the flowers were slightly embarrassed about something. Probably because I caught them with their reproductive organs hanging out and waving in the breeze.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Orchids and a Pirate

As promised, or threatened, a couple more orchid photos and one more from Tom Mason's appearance at Coconuts on the Beach Sunday. And a warning -- I've got lots more of both,especially the flowers.

Every time I look at this next one I wonder if they grow a lot of these in Louisiana -- because of course LSU's colors are purple and yellow.

Finally, one more from Coconuts. Tom has a habit of running out into the crowd and jumping up on tables as he performs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Flowers and Freebooters

More pictures from the orchid show, as promised, but first -

Our friend, musician Tom Mason, the Blue Buccaneer, is back on island and I caught him last night at Coconuts on the Beach, a great venue for a great act. Fun night of pirate music and piratey attitude. And I had something of a triumph. It was Johnny Cash's birthday and Tom did Folsom Prison Blues, but was a little troubled by the train image for a pirate. So I batted out these new lyrics for him, which he used.

I hear the wind a blowin'
Up from the Spanish Main.
Wish I could see a pirate ship
And not this goddamn train ...

Tom's CD, The Blue Buccaneer is one of my favorite pirate albums in years, with songs perfect for singing along and pounding on the table in a tavern - which is the best possible place to listen to pirate songs. And he'll be hitting the pirate festival tour this summer as well. Don't miss him - although it's hard to believe the setting will be anywhere near as good as last night's.

Also, Tom is working with us on a project for the 10th anniversary of Talk Like a Pirate Day, so stay tuned.

Update: Almost forgot. Tom and the guys will play at 7 p.m. tonight (Monday) at Angry Nate's in Christiansted. If you happen to be on island and enjoy a good time.

And now, a few more pictures from the orchid show.

This is the orangest and yellowest thing I have ever seen. And more space pixies!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Orchids, Orchids and Even More Orchids

Tori and I went to the St. Croix Orchid Society's annual show Saturday and took about 47,000 pictures. I won't make you look at all 47,000, but over the next week I'm going to be posting about 20 of our favorites. Because DAMN.

These look like space pixies or something.

Probably my favorite picture.

Savage pink. Just savage!

Be warned. MORE to come.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meet Me at the Fair

Think county fair, but with an island flair.

Last weekend was the 41st annual Ag Fair on St. Croix, the biggest food and farming exhibition in the Caribbean.

One thing I'll say for Crucians -- they have terrific patience for talk. When it's time to open an event, they want their speeches, and lots of 'em. I covered the opening ceremony, and there were more than 15 speakers on the program, including the people who received honors. The best part? Usually the invocation is given by a local pastor who "Oh lords" for 10 to 15 minutes. This time the invocation was given by a five year old who did it with complete aplomb - he was great - and the invocation was as short as he was.

It's also a big, big event for schools, lots of competition for best educational display, ag art, essays, poems, you name it.

Anyway, the story about the opening is here. There's also a picture of the young man, Kevin Beaupierre, giving the invocation. And my colleague from the Source, Bill, wrote this about the final day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pooches on Parade

The dog parade put on by the Krewe de Croix is an annual event that draws a fair sized crowd to the boardwalk in Christiansted. The Krewe is basically just a bunch of friends who put an island twist on various stateside traditions. Next week is their Mardi Croix parade on the northside, and while it's technically a different group running the St. Patrick's Day Parade, it's mostly the same people.

You can see the story I wrote about Saturday's parade here. This is my favorite pic from last weekend's dog parade. "I'm ready for my closeup!"

AND FYI - The laptop I use for almost everything is now a former computer. For the short term I'm using a much older machine. I can do pretty much all the same stuff, but everything is a lot more difficult and takes longer. So I probably won't be blogging quite as much. Just so you know. jb

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wonder If They Sell Much

Saw this sign yesterday at the Cost-U-Less. I can certainly see why they'd have to reduce price.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Troubled Times

I wrote last month about the closure of Hovensa, the St. Croix refinery that was by far (and is for another couple of weeks) the largest private employer in the territory.

I don't want to pretend that a huge oil refinery (one of the biggest in North America) is a great neighbor on a small, tropical island. But for more than 40 years it has been the mainstays – let me say that again with emphasis, THE mainstay – of the local economy.

We'll be visiting this from time to time for a while, because this is a huge event for this island.

Last month the unemployment rate in the U.S. Virgin Islands was 8.5 percent – 7.7 percent on St Thomas/St. John, and 9.6 on St. Croix. That's high. But the loss of all those refinery jobs will push the overall jobless rate in the territory to 12.5 percent and on St. Croix it will climb to 18.7 percent, according to the territory's Department of Labor. And there's no reason to think it'll get better any time soon. There simply are no other jobs on the island and no industries here that might create even a fraction of those jobs, not any time soon.

This came on top of a fiscal crisis for the territory government which is causing pretty heavy layoffs of public employees. And the Senate lacks the political will to do the things it needs to do to resolve the problem. They'd be unpopular, and politicians don't intentionally run around doing unpopular things in an election year. In fact, I covered a Senate session where the whole daylong discussion was Hovensa, and they steadfastly refused to face reality all day.

So the Baurs now have a front row seat at economic chaos. We're okay, at least for now, Everything is going to get more expensive, except rum, and we're losing friends fast. People who work at the refinery have a set of skills that kind find them work anywhere – except here. To work, they've gotta go to where the oil jobs are, and that's someplace else. One family we were getting to know saw the handwriting on the wall early and moved to Panama right after Christmas, before the Hovensa announcement. Another family we know is moving to Texas this summer – although they've said they're taking us with them. Not that we're ever moving to Texas, but their son thinks the Baurs are the funniest people he's ever met, and we've turned him on to Dr. Who. Another family is moving to Oklahoma, and there's also talk of Saudi Arabia and Qatar among our friends and acquaintances. Some friends of Millie's just moved to Florida. They werenit a Hovensa family, but they don't like what they see coming down the road.

And it's all going to get worse before it gets any better. The people who are leaving have skills, education. That just exacerbates the brain drain that has always been a problem on the island.

For us the biggest concern is the school. One of the perks of moving to the territory to work for the company was Hovensa paid private school tuition for the kids. Good Hope will still be there next year, the administration assured everyone, but everyone knows it won't be the same. And Good Hope isn't the only private school facing that problem. All of them – Country Day, Kingshill, A to Z Academy – have some hard decisions to make, and some of them won't survive. I just don't see how they can.

That's going to mean more people without jobs or leaving the island. We're looking at a long stretch of difficult times.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

North side beach

This is the beach at the Carambola, a resort on the north side of the island, looking west towards Hamm's Bluff. The first month we were on island we stayed at a vacation rental a couple of miles east of here. It's very close to The Wall, a scuba paradise where the sea floor drops straight down about 200 feet. The north side is pretty much all like this, but it's not perfect. Cell phone reception is spotty. Darn.