WanderingDan’s Weblog

St. Thomas…Day 1
August 19, 2011, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

August 17th

The 757 approaches the runway, which is practically at water level…from our perspectives it looks like the plane is going to hit water…awesome. Pre-buying my tickets to St. Croix at the terminal (which services 6 airlines…3 of them local island hoppers) is a painless process, but costs more than I anticipated…too bad the ferry is out of service.  I finally figure out how the taxi service works…several 12 passenger vans lined up, and you wait until they have the van filled before you go…but what’s the rush, we are all on vacation…and it’s ‘the islands’ where NOBODY is in a rush to do ANYTHING. I’ve been told this over and over, but have gotten so used to urban L.A. where EVERYONE is in a hurry to do SOMETHING…this is tripping me out a little. Edmund, our driver, is not a very jovial fellow and drives like a maniac with complete nonchalance.  I am soon to find out this is how most St. Thomasians drive.  Although his service is shitty, I still plan on giving him a tip…until he tries to swindle me on the price, which is a preset fare.  I give him what I was quoted…he tries to squeeze more out of me…this is not how I roll…anyone who knows me knows I am not a negotiator…give me a price, I will pay the price or I will walk away.  Whatever…I am now here at Palm Passage where Joe, my couch-surfing host, works.  After texting him of my arrival I take a good look around, absorbing the humid salty air, a couple random crack-heads mumbling jibberish at me as they walk by, random families of wild chickens strolling through the parking lot (similar to pidgeons in the states), and the unique energy offered in ‘town’, as this part of the island is called.  Joe comes down from his office in a few minutes, I throw my bags in his car, and we agree to meet up in a couple hours at an island bar by his office after he gets off work. I start strolling the streets and alleys (called ‘passages’) of the main shopping district, all of which are littered with shops, full on businesses and cubby-holes carved out of seemingly nowhere, offering whatever wares you can imagine, but specializing in jewelry of any and every kind.  If you want jewelry, go to St. Thomas! No joke. Loving the historic danish architecture, I wander alley to alley, street to street, and before long find myself heading north, out of the shopping district and into a residential area.  What I don’t realize is that I am heading smack dab into the middle of St. Thomas’ ghetto.  So here comes whitey tourist in flowing linen pants and Raybans down a street with locals hanging out in shady porches,  street corners,  or at little vendor stands…giving me staredowns as if to say “wha da fahk yu doin ere mon”.  Four blocks in, I turn around, and head towards the old fort.  After more strolling I make my way into an antique shop specializing in 17th & 18th century pirate/naval goods.  This shop gives me a boner, no lie.  I can’t stop staring at the 250 year-old pirate flintlock blunderbuss…priced at a modest 4 grand, it is absolutely beautiful.

I get to the island bar a little early, and order some Blackbeard Ale, which ironically, is made in Minnesota. The handful of patrons here are local continentals (imports from the states) getting off of work. They all know each other very well, or so I presume, by the highly sexualized banter going back and forth.  Joe comes down at 5, and we sit chatting for awhile about the island, what sorts of things I’m interested in doing while here, and he introduces me to his local friends at the bar.  Apparently today in the local paper was a full page ad for a ‘pocket-bra’, made in St. Croix, which everyone is having a jolly time making fun of,  passing around the ad and eliciting more sexual quips, especially about the matching pocket panties.  Eventually we hop in Joe’s jeep cherokee and make our way to the north part of the island where he lives, in the mountainous jungle.  The main roads are windy and narrow, sort of like maneuvering the curves of Mulholland drive; in sharp contrast the offroads to his house are horrendous…I estimate the average car suspension must last no more than a year or two here…potholes from hell, broken chunks of road…horrible.   Joe rents a two-bedroom apartment in a tri-plex…and the view from his back patio is breathtaking.  You can see a few of the British Virgin Islands, and a couple of unpopulated cays…mesmerizing…amazing. I could sit up here and watch this view all day if it wasn’t for the relentless mosquitos. I swear those bastards can smell my sweet west-coast blood a mile away from the way they are ravaging me. After relaxing on the patio and talking for an hour or so we head out to Red Hook, the eastern part of the island for some dinner. I am still exhausted from my drinking-fest the day before, the red-eye flight, and walking around all afternoon. Joe laughs at me as I zonk out in his car in the middle of his explanations about the different communities we pass. “Are you sleeping?! What the hell?” After dinner we head back to crash…I am beyond wiped out. The jungle noises awaiting our return are straight out of the movies…frogs, bats, crickets and who knows what other creeping, crawling and flying critters, in a frenetic chorus of audible awesomeness.  Joe draws me a little map of how to get around the island by bus, and a few places he recommends I check out.  He leaves early for work usually, so I will be on my own manana.


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