No Wire Hangers

Saturday morning Husband and I divided and conquered the children’s activities: he went to the monthly Home Depot Children’s Workshop with BB to build a boat, and I took BG to sailing class. I was watching BG clearly enjoying herself, hiking out at the tiller and not minding at all the mini-squall soaking all the kids, when my phone rang.

The weather this weekend was crazy. Endless bands of rain - was like fall (until you felt how warm it was outside). Luckily Saturday morning wasn't so bad.

The weather this weekend was crazy. Endless bands of rain – was like fall (until you felt how warm it was outside). Luckily Saturday morning wasn’t so bad.

“I’ve locked us out of my car. Can you come get BB? And bring a wire hanger?” I told him he would have to wait until class was over, which was soon. Next call, 10 minutes later: “Are you coming yet? We’re in the parking lot and BB is hungry and thirsty and hot.” Good Lord.

“So go back into Home Depot, buy snacks and a drink by the checkout, and while you’re at it, look for hangers or wire of some nature.” As far as I was concerned, if you are going to be ‘stranded’ somewhere, outside a massive hardware store was pretty much the most convenient place ever. When class finished, BG and I hightailed it home to discover, alas, à la Joan Crawford, no wires hangers. Then on to the Home Depot parking lot where BB was happily stuffing his face with Doritos (because I’m sure that was the healthiest thing they had), while Husband was trying to jam a floppy wire from a huge spool (no hangers) into the doorframe of his beloved battered old ‘island-car’ (euphemism for a lemon that never would pass inspection on the mainland); vehicle-thrifty Cubans would push Husband’s car into the Bay of Pigs.

Next marital request: a quick dash to Kmart to buy wire hangers while he stayed to fiddle with the car. The big Kmart on a busy Saturday morning is not exactly where you want to be with 3 and 5 year olds, especially if you are not planning to buy them anything. My intimate knowledge of this Kmart allowed me to navigate us around the problem areas (toys, the Halloween sale, candy) to the hanger aisle. Evidently Mommie Dearest got to Kmart too – no wire hangers. We had a near miss with the clearance toy section on the way to Automotive (thought they might sell those things you jimmy doors open with, then realized they would probably sell too well), but a stray Crayola display hijacked us with gigantic coloring books of Hot Wheels and Arial. Finally we managed to escape Kmart with only a new vacuum, a heat shield for my car dashboard, and two coloring books – clearly a record of some sort. I called Husband immediately afterward while eyeing the Advance Auto Parts store across the parking lot.

The source of the expression 'no wire hangers'! A great, if unsettling, beach read.

The source of the expression ‘no wire hangers’! A great, if unsettling, beach read.


The awesome movie from the book. Joan Crawford was evidently a bit insane.

The awesome movie from the book. Joan Crawford was evidently a bit insane.

“Do you want me to call a car place to come help you? Or I could swing by Lennerd’s and see if they can send someone…or there’s that Auto store…’ (Please God, say no to another store)… Husband sighed. He usually likes to fix things himself, but he was out of his league with this one. “Ok, whatever you think.” I decided to drive over to Lennerd’s, a little automotive garage where we occasionally get our cars fixed. I hadn’t realized it was now just past noon (closing-time), and Lennerd’s was shuttered up tightly. There are some rather less salubrious areas near Kmart that I’ve been warned about, and Lennerd’s seems to be on the edge; so yes, I did hesitate for a second when I noticed a little further down the road, a small group of men gathered around a tow truck and another car that made Husband’s look new. But hey, a tow truck’s a tow truck. I drove over, left the children in the car with the parking brake pulled and in a raucous game of ‘slide the veggie snacks through the pool noodle’ (honestly, whatever keeps them happy), and approached the group with a hearty “Good Afternoon!” I got the same response back and launched in.

“My husband has locked himself out of his car at Home Depot, and I can’t find a wire hanger anywhere, and I thought maybe you could help, or know who to call…” The oldest guy who seemed to belong to the tow truck said he was in the middle of something (gesturing to the car), but maybe afterwards? I asked how long it might take then repeated my lame comment about not being able to find a hanger.

“You want me to get you a hanger?” The tow truck guy looked confused. No, I explained, just that we couldn’t figure out any other way to get it open. He asked what kind of car it was (luckily it is a extremely popular model on St. Thomas), then there was some discussion amongst the men that I couldn’t follow in rapid West Indian patois about tools, and finally he turned to me and said, “You’re trustworthy, right?” I said of course, and he reached into his truck and pulled out something that looked like a long metal rod, thick as a pencil and bent in random places, and what I later found out is called a pry-bar. He showed me how to use the pry-bar on the car they were about to lift, and said if we managed to get it open before he got there, to wait for him in the parking lot and he’d get his tools back from us there. And that was it. He asked for no phone number, nothing written, nada – it was just pure and utter trust and a massive favor for a random stranger. As I started to walk away with his tools, the tow truck lifted the dilapidated car and all the wheels fell off.


Towing (or in this case, 'carrying') the wheel-less car.

Towing (or in this case, ‘carrying’) the wheel-less car.

Back in the Home Depot parking lot, I showed off my bounty and ingenuity, and demonstrated how to pry open the door. Neither of us was quite sure how exactly to use the metal rod, but Husband went for it, and apparently the thing is bent perfectly to pull up a door lock. It took all of 15 seconds. As Husband gave me a peck on the lips in thanks, we hear yelled across the parking lot, “Heeeey! Do I get a kiss too?!?” Our knight in the tow truck pulled right up to us, laughed and got out to get his tools and shake hands with me. He and Husband did the whole West Indian 10-step handshake/fist bump/bro hug with the back slap routine (and no, they’ve never met before). Husband gave him a 20 as thanks, and off went the man in the CGC Quick Repair tow truck. Sometimes I shake my head and say, “Only here” and don’t mean it nicely. This was one of the other times. I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

CGC Quick Repair - I concur! We will be calling them in the future.

CGC Quick Repair – we concur! We will be calling them in the future (though hopefully not soon). And now I know how to pry open a car door.


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Exploring the soft mainland grass and dirt the first week of summer.

Exploring the soft mainland grass and dirt
the first week of summer.

We were off-island for much of this past summer, staying with family in New England where BabyGirl (now 5) and BabyBoy (3.5) attended a local nature day camp. At pick-up the first day, they were eagerly showing me their ‘be-yoooo-ti-ful’ leaves (big oak ones – anything deciduous for them is novel and crazy cool) when BG blurted out:

“Mongoose! Mommy, look! A mongoose!” As I was trying to see where she was pointing and about to say, ‘We have no mongooses here,’ she shouted:

“No, wait…squirrel! Look, a SQUIRREL!” And with that, the two of them raced off after this wondrous creature and watched it run up a tree and chatter at them. They stood there in awe for a good five minutes until I was finally able to pull them away by promising that squirrels were all over the place – like iguanas at home.

At this point, I fully realized how very ‘island’ my children had become in two years.


The only photo I have managed to take of a mongoose thus far (it’s to the right of the bench). They are fast. This one was in the middle of catching a young iguana (the bright green blur to its left).


So perhaps iguanas are more plentiful than squirrels. These guys (plus more off-camera) were watching us eat lunch at the pool. We had to shoo them away like flies.

BabyBoy has lived over half his life on St. Thomas; BG, well over a third of hers. The consequences of this are both subtle and obvious.

A subtle consequence: their appreciation of the vast selection in a typical mainland grocery store. Subtle, in that it hadn’t occurred to me that my Babies could, or would have yet grasped the yawning chasm between shopping experiences on St. Thomas and on the mainland. In a local Shaw’s that first week back on the mainland, they pointed at all the displays, literally gasped and exclaimed over the enormous piles of fruits and vegetables, the endless aisles of refrigerated and frozen food, and the automatic motion-sensor doors. Almost all food is shipped to St. Thomas and seems to go bad or stale quickly, and with electricity as expensive and unreliable as it is down here, you just don’t see those things (imagine for a moment the absurdity of a store with sensor doors that get stuck shut – or open, for that matter – when the power goes off often. Food stores here are going to spend their money on a back-up generator for a small freezer aisle, not miles of aisles and automatic doors).  My children were so in awe of the grocery store that several random strangers actually remarked ‘how enthusiastic’ my children were, then looked at me sort of funny.


Okay, so not our New England Shaws branch, but the idea’s the same. Plentiful stuff and waaaaaay cheaper than what we get here
on St. Thomas.

Half the refrigerated area at Costuless (think: island Costco) on a high-season day last January. It's still a popular and much-frequented store.

Part of the refrigerated area at Costuless
(think: island Costco) on a high-season day last January. It’s still popular and much-frequented.


Flip-side of the grocery situation down here. Fruit Bowl has lovely stuff: organic and regular, exotic and typical, local and imported, but often at high prices.

An obvious consequence: their reluctance to swim in the cool northern Atlantic Ocean. The average year-round temperature of the Caribbean Sea is just above 80 degrees Fahrenheit; the day we left in late June, it was closer to the mid-80s. The pool was even hotter. When we arrived in southern New England, the chalkboard signs on the back of lifeguard stands read a typical 69 degrees; it would eventually reach 71 while we were there – ‘almost hot!’ exclaimed beachgoers that day, without irony. BG braved the temperature disparity to boogie-board the ‘humongous’ waves (comparatively speaking as they were 2-3 feet – we have glassy calm in St. Thomas), BB went in only to his knees and preferred the 80 degree pool (‘chilly,’ he still commented), and Husband wouldn’t go in at all until I threatened him (he later got around this by refusing to don a swimsuit). I waded in if only to uphold staunch New Englander values (I’m certain ‘swimming in the Atlantic despite temperature or seaweed’ is listed somewhere).  And the seaweed, Good Lord the seaweed! BB kept saying those first days that the water was ‘dirty’ and he couldn’t see the bottom. And when the red stinky stuff rolled in, they were both appalled.

BG scanning a chilly July 4th Atlantic.

BG scanning a chilly July 4th Atlantic.

A fine New England summer day and a very different topography from St. Thomas.

A fine New England summer day and a very different topography from St. Thomas.

At any rate, I like that my children are a bit more ‘island’ than mainland right now. Squirrels and good climbing trees delight them up north and fallen palm fronds and rocks are good for hours of play here. They aren’t squeamish about jellyfish stings, holding sea urchins, or fish swimming around them, and they think things like elevators, escalators and sensor-motion anything are wicked fun (except toilets – automatic toilets scare the bejesus out of them).  I will, however, continue to urge them into the Atlantic Ocean I grew up in, though I may hold off on the Polar Bear swims for the time being.


Discovering the softness of Lamb’s Ear leaves mid-summer.

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I wish I could say that in the months of silence since my last post I had accomplished something spectacular: written a bestselling novel, taught my children a foreign language, traveled to new exotic Caribbean locales, completely organized and cleaned our home, run a marathon… As it were, none of that happened. Instead, mundane things like potty training, endless laundry, school for both Babies (who are no longer really Babies, sigh), vacations spent either running around like crazy or doing absolutely nothing, and maintaining a workable family life, have been the norm. Numerous half-written posts litter my desktop; photos that are funny, interesting, gorgeous, or just plain random are scattered around in files, folders, and memory cards. The more time that slips away, the harder it seems to get back to it. Instead of further dithering, I will post, regardless of how imperfect they seem to me (or anyone else). And, away we go!

A growing stack of these fuels many daydreams.

A growing stack of these fuels many daydreams.


Suddenly, Silence: June – September

If the crowded Apple store in the Providence Place Mall hadn’t smelled like a combination of a boys’ locker room and a stale bus station waiting room on that fateful Sunday afternoon last August, I might have agreed to take the ‘one remaining appointment’ later in the day. As it was, I couldn’t get out of the store fast enough and presumed that it would be just as easy, and less odorous, to get the battery replaced in the small clean store on St. Thomas. A flawed presumption, as it turned out. But I digress…



Early June: Cutting off extra fronds and coconuts at the beginning of Hurricane Season. The palms all looked naked and without the extra shade, everything seemed much brighter and hotter.

My initial silence from mid-May was broken by a late June blog-post about an awful TV show that shall no longer be mentioned. In it I blithely and optimistically tagged on a promise to become a prolific blogger. I must have been in denial about the long hot summer looming, as the post sounds far too cheery. Most likely the optimism came from an early Babies’ bedtime, a whole delicious evening of ‘’Property Brothers’ ahead, and a decent bottle of white to help diminish the mountain range of unfolded laundry.


Family discussions abound about which team they bat for; either way, they are easy on the eyes and fun to watch…

By June, Husband’s job had become a full-time and brutal slog, school for BG had ended, and my immediate goal was filling the Babies’ summer days with activities that didn’t all take place under the mid-day sun (only mad dogs, Englishmen, and tourists to St. Thomas, to misquote Noel Coward…). Many families we knew fled the island for the summer, or at least the mothers and children; some island fathers stayed to work, becoming very chill people who hung out in the BVI at weekends. To be fair, June was lovely here: not as hot as July would become, with parking available everywhere, room in restaurants, and for a while, even a handful of organized children’s activities. We did Coral World, the Butterfly Garden, toddler playgroups (now stuffed with older siblings), trips to various beaches and playgrounds both here and on St. John, and the STAHM’s and F’s even organized a multi-family beach day on Water Island. There is a tiny ferry that goes from Sub-Base every hour or so, carrying the mail, groceries, and anything else the tiny island in Charlotte-Amalie harbor needs. It also carried 14 of us, nine of who were under five years old. “Is this a Kindergarten?” our lady ferry Captain asked. No, just very ambitious parents who find strength in numbers and want a Painkiller ‘off-island.’


Water Island is right out in the harbor. People do live there and commute by ferry and boat to the mainland, but it seems like it would be a lot of work with little ones.


The Water Island Ferry



Heidi’s Honeymoon Grill – so no packed lunch necessary.


Honeymoon Beach. A lovely, lovely place.


Not a bad way to spend a group playdate.


A creative mom taught the kids how to make coconut boats. BG swimming away with her boat.


The day’s detritus at the Water Island Ferry Landing/Post Office/Community Center.

And then July arrived. Hot. No wind, no school day camps, fewer families with children, and still Husband worked crazy hours. We did all manage to make it to the finale of the St. John Carnival in early July – a wonderful and crazy day culminating in a hitched ride home on a friend’s boat dodging rainstorms. Days later there was the Home Depot Kids Workshop (first Saturday of every month and free!). They made a moving truck – a big hit, as I recall.


BG watching the St. John Carnival parade assemble next to the playground.


The beauty queens. The one in the middle is at every event possible – and always wearing the tiara and sash. I think it says Mrs. USVI, but I don’t know what year.


Groovy, indeed.


Painting the truck. This was one of the more involved workshops. The December frame (gift to Grandparents) took all of 5 minutes.

The children and I walked around in a constant sweat – buckling both Babies in steaming car seats was enough to make everyone want to go back home and change clothes. Twice a week I helped a patient and artistic friend run a small informal morning camp from our playroom (convenient and A/C). Afternoon activities became group survival events with the dwindling island stalwarts. We had potluck dinners on the beach, potluck dinners at the pool, massive orders of pizza delivered to both places…variations on the same theme of ‘get children out of the house, play, be active, and get them suitably exhausted before bedtime – and cook as little as possible.’


Setting up a potluck.


Potluck pizza under banana trees.


Fire Dancing at Secret Harbor one Wednesday evening.

It was an extremely fun summer and good friends became closer, something island-living seems to foster. And best of all, the amount of time we spent swimming in the extremely warm summer waters of pool and sea resulted in BG becoming first a real swimmer sans floaties, then an avid snorkeler.


From floaties to snorkel in one summer. Island-living at its best.

The Babies and I fled island in late July, originally to chill out at Mother’s, see family and friends, and relax. But oh! The huge variety of entertaining activities for families and children on the mainland! Sign us up! We all reveled in the cooler temperatures, the refreshing ocean (a good 20 degrees brisker than St. Thomas), and the novel entertainment. Libraries, zoos, big clean updated playgrounds, outdoor concerts, children’s festivals and garden parties, carousels, indoor day camps, water parks, restaurants…we tried to do them all.


BG and friend having a ball at a local carousel. It was the first thing we did when we got back on the mainland. We followed it up with dinner at an old-school pizzeria. Bliss.


BB at toddler reading time at a local mainland library.


BG feeding giraffes at Roger Williams Park Zoo. Sometimes you can get sick of aquariums…


Never underestimate the power of Hibachi as entertainment. We went several times. And BB got his first haircut soon after this photo. Somehow his hair didn’t seem quite so long on the island.

By early August, my fingers itched to write something – anything! I was finally able to get out my laptop one day as the Babies played with Grandparents, so I took a deep breath, opened it up, and…nothing. No battery. The battery was officially dead and unable to hold a charge. Expletives ensued. I closed it, felt lucky that there was a relatively close Apple store, and got in the car.


Take this photo, and stuff it full of sweaty people.

The trip to the Apple Store in the Providence Place Mall almost did me in. It was a Sunday (first stupid move with weekend crowds looking for A/C), right after lunch (second), and my first trip to a real mall in well over a year (third). The Apple store was heaving with the most bizarre and random assortment of humanity and seemed like a badly organized circus. I was passed from blue-shirted to blue-shirted employee, struggling to look for nametags. ‘Ok, you’re gonna want to talk to Alice, she’s wearing a blue shirt’ – oh so helpful. Then it was Bob, Steve, Crystal, and so on. Finally I was told that they had one appointment left to replace my battery that afternoon in three hours’ time. Claustrophobia had set in and I was at the point where the collective fumes of a Yankee Candle Store would have been preferable. I decided, ‘to hell with it. I’ll wait until I go back to St. Thomas and get Marcus at techbox (authorized Apple retailer and repairs) to replace it. It will take no time, and I won’t have to deal with this mall again.’


Our clean little odorless techbox store. With easy parking out front!

And so, one morning at the very beginning of September, back on Island, I entered techbox, handed over my computer, and was told it would be about a week, they ‘just had to wait for the battery to be shipped to St. Thomas from the mainland. Should be a week.’ Anyone familiar with island living of this sort, feel free to shake your head and bemoan my naïveté.



Back in the swing of things for Autumn.

Suddenly, Silence: September – December

Snippets from these months:

Me: “Hi, I am calling to see if my laptop is ready for pick-up. They said it would be ready by the end of this week.”

techbox: “Let me check…. The part has not arrived yet. We don’t know when it will.”

Me: “Has the part arrived YET?”

techbox: “They have to wait for the new iPhones to be shipped out first before they ship anything else.”

Me: “When will that be?”

techbox: “No idea.”

techbox: “Good news! The battery arrived. You can pick it up tomorrow.”

(later that day)

techbox: “It wasn’t the battery as it turns out. We think it’s the logic board. We ordered the part; it should be here in 5-10 business days. The good news it that your computer is still under warranty, so it will be free.” (Ok, that part made me happy, although now I was worried the warranty would expire before it arrived.)

Me: “Your favorite customer here. Any news?”

techbox: “The logic board’s not the problem, it’s part of the battery, and we have to wait for that part to be delivered.” (At one point, I thought about getting a new computer, but thought I would wait it out for two more months, as it was still free – imagine having that mind-set on the mainland!).


techbox: “Good news! You can pick it your laptop this afternoon. We found the problem, cleaned your computer up, and it’s as good as new.”

Me: “Well, I’ll be…”

Silent no more in early December. Just in time for the rush of the holidays, two family birthdays, and another trip back to the mainland with SNOW! But that is another story for another day.


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Ashamed Of Topic, But Must Be Done

In light of the fact that it has been well over a month since my last post, I am somewhat embarrassed that this one is essentially a reminder about tonight’s Real World: St. Thomas Premiere (MTV, 10/9c). Truly, there are many, many other aspects of my life that I would like to write about – that I MUST write about if I am to sleep at night and stop my fingers from itching to touch a keyboard all day long. However, first thing’s first. Tonight I am going to be plonked in front of a large television with good friends and something rummy in my hands, ready to hoot and holler at any sighting of someone or something we know. One of our friends bartended at the Real World cast ‘local,’ so we are counting on seeing him (young tall blond guy who looks a little like a latter-day Thor – trés cute). I am sure we will be somewhat disappointed with the show (I mean, it is about 20-somethings hooking up and advertising their general ignorance as far as I can figure from the trailers) but considering the chock-a-block social schedule here, every little amusing thing counts.


Summer has officially begun, and with it, the pace of life has slowed somewhat. The goal? Three posts a week for the next month. Time to finish hanging posts, update old ones, and write about all the cool things and randomness that surrounds us here on a daily basis. Tally-ho!

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A Triumvirate Of Classic Island Crazy: Coconut War; Literal Bread; Future Chicken

I don’t buy the local paper every day, but I should; sometimes I don’t actually go into a place that sells them (when I can avoid spending money here, I go with it), and other days they are all sold out. Recently, on one of the ‘sold out’ days, a friend texted me an article that still makes me giggle. I really do need to pick up the Virgin Islands Daily News on a regular basis – you never know what gems you will find.

Last night, Mother’s Day Eve, I asked Husband to get a loaf of bread from Marina Market while he was out picking up dinner (I was certainly not about to cook, and we had already gone out for a family brunch). This morning, I opened the bag of bread to make sandwiches for Husband and BG. Slice after slice, they all looked like this; the sell-by date was yesterday. I guess at midnight the mold started to grow, and fast.

This afternoon I ran into Food Center to do a quick shop (only needed a few things – am hitting Price Smart tomorrow for the big stuff). I saw some split chicken breasts that looked good and bought them. Two hours later, I was writing a check at the Red Hook Mail Service where I was trying to send an Express envelope before 5 – turns out that if I had wanted it to go out today, I should have had it there by 9 a.m. At any rate (and I think their rates are 30% higher than normal, but it’s close when you’re in a pickle), I double-checked the date with the woman. “15th, right?” (thinking of the chicken I just bought. “No, 14th,” she said. I looked up. “Oh right, Mother’s Day was yesterday (now thinking of the bread). Well I just bought chicken at Food Center packed on the 15th of May, that’s why I thought it was the 15th.” This struck the woman as particularly funny, and she called to woman the back, “Hey, you want to buy chicken from the future? Go to Food Center – you can buy chicken packed tomorrow!”

Note: it is possible to buy moldy/spoiled/past date food anywhere on the island. I don’t mean to pick on Marina Market. The chicken, however, I can’t really explain.

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Real World Tidbit (Spoiler Alert); A Big Day For Birthday Parties

Friday night I heard that one of the Real World: St. Thomas kids got kicked out of the house for drugs only a couple of days before filming wrapped. There is a large chance I am spreading baseless gossip, but the source seems legitimate and I see no reason why not to pass it along. People online have written that the shark talk guy (AKA porthole ears – see my previous post) left last week because of alcohol issues. I heard that the person who left was definitely kicked out because of drugs (for which MTV has a zero tolerance policy). Other comments I have found suggest that they are still in the middle of filming and have a month to go. Oh, the drama! Oh, the suspense! Oh, this is so much more interesting than cleaning up piles of wet sandy towels, shoes, and clothing from a beach birthday party!

Whatever the real facts are, I think I need a new hobby besides reading/researching random Internet babble written by people who seem to be intimately familiar with every Real World season (laundry procrastination notwithstanding). Already I feel too familiar with the 7 (or 6 now, I guess) who will be appearing on my TV soon. And by the way, I don’t know how MTV has put the fear of God into people on the island, but anyone connected to the show (or has a friend who is) starts every comment with ‘You did NOT hear this from me!’ and then looks over their shoulder.


Speaking of wet-towel-generating birthday parties, Megan’s Bay is the most popular place to have them, ‘all the way down on the left.’ Most of the people I have met on St. Thomas do ‘beach birthdays’ (at least for the little ones, don’t know about bigger ones yet) and usually they are at Magen’s Bay beach as there are ‘sheds’ (pavilions), plenty of picnic tables, shade from trees, parking, as well as a snack bar, beach bar, and store. As a local you pay only 2 dollars per adult to get in (4 otherwise), and nothing for children. It’s a gorgeous beach – National Geographic and Condé Nast Traveler have both named it one of the ten best in the world – and a pretty fabulous place to have a party.

Today has to have been some sort of record: we were at one of FOUR birthday parties for children between the ages of 3 and 5, at picnic tables right next to each other ‘all the way down on the left side,’ with people who all know each other – and it was not planned. The one we went to was the first to start, and by the time we left, the other three were also in full swing (piñatas, happy birthday signs and balloons in all the trees, and food and coolers all lined up). It was funny watching people get out of their cars, start walking with gifts and towels piled in arms toward a picnic table, then stop, clearly confused (‘wait, that kid is in my kid’s class, but so is that one over there at that table – where do we go? Whose party are we going to again?’). A couple of people even hung out at the wrong party by accident until the name of the birthday child was mentioned. It was no big deal as everyone shared food, toys, and children. When we were leaving (naptime!) my friend was busily bartering leftover cake for drinks from the ‘next-table’ party. And yet another thing I love about island living? It was a very rainy morning, but people go to parties regardless of weather – they just stand there with umbrellas until the rain stops.

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Hiding From The Real World At Coral World

We decided to take a visiting Norwegian Friend –almost family – to Coral World early one Saturday morning with the Babies (frankly, you would have to be as close as family to brave Coral World with our two). Every time we had tried to go to Coral World on a Sunday (a non-cruise ship day, hence fewer crowds) one or more of the shows didn’t take place (the sea lions were on vacation, the sharks were busy, the exhibits were being cleaned) so we decided to try a Saturday. We planned to be there for the Shark Shallows talk, the Stingray Lagoon feeding, the Sea Lion Presentation, and the Turtle Talk, beginning at 9:45am. Norwegian, Husband, BG, BB, and I all showed up bang on time, but still ended up hanging around a bit waiting for the shark talk to begin (not an abnormal occurrence in the islands – waiting…). It was gearing up to be an extremely hot day, we were already sweating, and the children were becoming restless (not good at 10am), consequently we were more than happy when a young-ish guy finally stood up and started to talk.

BB, Norwegian, and BG, pre-arrival of Real World hordes.

Unfortunately, in the words of Miss Clavel, something was not right: his baseball cap was on sideways; his earrings were the kind that create portholes out of ears (I could see the Undersea Observatory Tower framed through his); and he nervously fumbled his words. It was like watching the ‘too cool for school’ 7th grade boy give an awkward science report. To be fair, he wasn’t all that bad and it seemed like he had actually put in some time and energy preparing for his talk – it was just not the normal radiant, smiling, chatty, and confident Coral World presenter, most of whom exude the impression that half their young lives are spent underwater becoming one with the marine world. My head spun around and noted the athletic spandex-clad person appear with a large video camera. Out of nowhere, a fuzzy mike materialized on a long boom, dangling above the shark ‘expert.’ Uh oh.

BG and guy with a minor amount of equipment – in hindsight, that must have been hot to lug around.

Full disclosure: I have not actually wanted to run into the Real World. Ever. I abhor the idea of being on camera/TV/video, and I don’t want my children anywhere near it. Irrational behavior perhaps, but recently I have lived in fear of unknowingly being filmed and ending up on TV later looking like crap (fine, so I’m superficial and narcissistic, sue me). On this particular day, I was wearing a blouse that I have been meaning to throw away for two years (except I love the fabric – reminds me of Klimt – and it is very lightweight). Problem is, it makes me look like a schloß – and not a small one. Add in some über-late nights with visiting Norwegian (always blame the visitors), unwashed frizzy pool hair, weight I attribute to a season of rummy Painkillers, and sweat-inducing heat – well, I was ready to hide. I muttered an expletive under my breath, grabbed BB (who was starting to wander/bolt off and yell – he’s, shall we say, a very vocal child), and headed straight for the ticket takers by the gate. The woman’s smile faded somewhat when I blurted out, “MTV? Here? Today? Really?!” With her smile bravely holding on, “Um, yes!” as though this were a good thing. There was no question of us leaving; this was the only day when all five of us were able to go together. Harumph. I texted a few local friends about our Coral World encounter who replied back with variations of ‘Hahahahaha!!!!! Have fun with that!’

Norwegian enjoying Stingray Lagoon (with camera in foreground).

More LA-looking camera-wielding people were melting out of Coral World’s low stone walls at an alarming rate, along with production people, sound/microphone holders, and Lord knows who else. Pretty soon they almost outnumbered the visitors. The rest of the Real World kids meandered in as well. Adding to this nightmare, I notice that Norwegian is lovingly holding BG up so she can touch a shark, with cameras zeroed in on them. BG hates to be the center of attention and one random comment or action can set her off. Next thing I know, I hear familiar shrieking. I found out later, thank God, that a parent must sign a waiver for their child to appear on the show. No waivers were presented (and none would have been signed). After both children raised a ruckus at the Stingray Lagoon, I sidled up to a production-looking guy and said, “You’ll be editing that out, please.” He looked startled for a second then burst out laughing. No flies on this mother!

Filming entourage.

Every exhibit was either presented by the Real World interns or had them taking an active part; they were introduced merely as interns – no one else seemed to twig on what was taking place, but to be fair, most of the other visitors were Danish, and they probably think cameras following people around is a typical American thing. Two of the girls helped with the Sea Lion presentation, and the rest of the cast gathered behind the actual Coral World visitors to watch them. I was crouched behind BB, around a corner, next to all the production people. It was kind of cool actually. They got what was filmed almost immediately, and it seemed as though they would review it then and there on a little box/viewer (I never claimed to have any idea about actual lingo), and chat quietly about it.  The Real World guys seemed to move on air: I almost jumped when I looked up from one second to the next, and suddenly there they were standing next to me, marveling at how adept my son was with the iPhone (had to keep him quiet somehow). The girls were okay; their roles were more ‘magician’s assistants,’ with the sea lion as the rabbit. They were mostly giggly, and within seconds one of them forgot what she was supposed to say and bent over double with her head in her hands laughing, and then a minute later, the other one (I swear I heard this) said something about ‘Here at Optical World…’ Anyway, the actual presenter was the typical cheery capable Coral World person, and the Sea Lion show was a hit (at least with BG, BB lost interest the minute he realized he couldn’t run under the ropes where the Sea Lion was, hence the phone distraction).

Magician’s assistants and sea lion (magician at right).

BB keeping busy and quiet on phone.

One of the stealth Real World guys.

The other stealth guy.

After that, we sort of gave up trying to keep to a schedule. BB likes to run around, climbing up and down the steps in the Undersea Observatory Tower and checking out the various aquariums dotted around; BG likes to look at everything, but not really sit through whole talks about the life of a turtle or whatever (some of which she’s heard before), so we wandered around aimlessly for a bit longer. Meanwhile, I kept trying to remember to stand up straight, hold my wind-ballooning shirt closer to my body (to avoid looking like a billboard ad for the Secessionist movement), stop frowning, and not get caught in the background yelling at my children while wiping my sweaty face off with my hands. Traumatic stuff. After a snack, all had quieted down, and we decided to skedaddle to St. John on the people-ferry for lunch and a playground.

The Klimt that my shirt looks like, minus the pregnant and breasts out bit and the people hanging around (although I do have my two babies!).

Since then, I have had texts with sightings (at Pesce in Red Hook for lunch Tuesday), heard more random things about the show (evidently three months of constant filming will be edited down to 8 hours), and chatted with people who have agreed or not to allow them to film at their store or restaurant for whatever reason (the number one reason against filming seems to be that it would irritate their loyal local brethren). I also heard that originally MTV had brought in their own motorboat captains to transport the seven 20-somethings around the islands, but after two boats were caught on reefs, locals were hired (and boats purchased – you break it, you buy it).

Charts alone aren’t enough, you need a local to navigate these waters!

As I said before, I certainly know what I will be watching this summer, and having the Real World on island this season has certainly spiced things up – everyone likes a bit of drama, especially when it happens to someone else or on the fringes of your life. And therein lies the problem with and the allure of ‘reality TV,’ but that’s another topic for another day. Stay tuned.

P.S. Here is a website with the complete cast of characters.

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Real World: St. Thomas

As I am sure many of you have heard by now, the Real World is here and filming. For the moment, we are the center of the MTV production world while the 27th season of the thought-provoking, soul-searching, and endlessly entertaining reality show plays itself out around St. Thomas. Technically speaking, the show should be called Real World: USVI as they are not actually living on St. Thomas, but rather on small Hassel Island in St. Thomas Harbor. The little island is predominantly Virgin Islands National Parkland with some historic buildings and ruins, and was attached to Frenchtown by a small isthmus until 1865 when they widened the harbor. Also on Hassel Island, there is of course a luxury villa large enough to accommodate the 7 lucky young folk and the entourage of those monitoring their every move (this luxury villa is for sale, should anyone be interested; price available upon request, so it’s most likely very reasonable and within your budget).

View of St. Thomas Harbor, with Charlotte Amalie in foreground, Hassel Island in the middle, Frenchtown on the right, and Water Island beyond.

Much of their time is spent on St. Thomas when they are not carousing, creating drama, and co-mingling in their lovely villa. Evidently their first night in the villa was spent hooking up with each other; by night three, they were fighting like cats and dogs. They also frequent Duffy’s Love Shack on Wednesday’s Ladies’ nights – free drinks for the girls (always a plot helper). Early on, one of the guys (described as tall and tattooed – think he was in the newspaper the first official day) evidently had a slightly (or more) inebriated emotional breakdown to a waitress outside the bathroom, bewailing the extreme stress of being followed by cameras 24-7. What did he think he signed up for?  Maybe he’s setting himself up at the sensitive one. Who knows? (Who cares?) I also heard they skipped out on a bill or two – ballsy, and not a little stupid considering the size of this island and the long memories of people here.

I had my first run-in with the Real World a couple of weeks ago, when we were leaving the Butterfly Farm near the end of the West Indian Company (WICO) dock in St. Thomas harbor. This is where most cruise ships dock, and there are only a few things all the way at that end: a gym, Señor Frogs, and the Butterfly Farm (pretty sure they weren’t headed there, although it is a extremely lovely corner of the island). We were about to pull out of the parking lot when I noticed two guys who looked straight out of central casting for the Jersey Shore (Bingo! I thought) with athletic-looking people toting large television cameras running around them (Eureka!). I fumbled my phone out of my purse, took a 2 second video first by accident, then as I was waiting for them to come into decent view again, one of them looked over at me (actually think it was the tattooed one again, unless they all have tattoos) and shot me the dirtiest look ever. As in, ‘how dare you take a photo of me?’ To which I responded silently with, ‘look doofball, you’re the one who signed up to have umpteen cameras follow your every move for months. Let the housewife take her photo.’ I think they were headed for the gym, and I probably would have followed with the car to see, but I have no desire to end up on TV looking like a stalking crazed housewife in her dirty mommy car (or ever, for that matter).

BG at Butterfly Farm.

BB chasing BG at the Butterfly Farm.

I haven’t seen the show since I was home bored one summer when they had the first Real World (New York) marathon on TV, which was – gulp – almost 20 years ago (now I feel old, at least in MTV years!). At any rate, I know with absolute certainty what I will be watching this summer.

Athletic camera people.

Two of our Real World friends.


This blog was all ready to go a while ago– I only needed to put in some photos. I should have gone ahead and just posted it as now it is seriously out of date. The title of tomorrow’s post: Hiding From The Real World At Coral World.

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Frustrating Food Update, Sort Of

It turns out that I could have been wrong (twice in two days? inconceivable!) in blaming our fishy strawberries on either the store or the shipping process. According to this blog that my Mother found, it might have to do with GMOs.

And they aren’t listed in this group of certified non-GMO brands.

But, they have been members of this since 1997.

All of this being said, Driscolls swears up and down on their website that they don’t use GMOs. I feel like they would have been found out if they did, and evidently you can figure out what field your berries were grown in just from looking at the packaging (too late, our box is in the dumpster already). At any rate, I hope that someone on island grows strawberries so I can taste something divinely local and fresh soon (maybe the Rasta Farmer’s Market at the end of the month?). Until then, I am going to try some other berries for a while, and just imagine that my old box of strawberries was strategically placed under a box of fish for the ride over from Puerto Rico.

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Frustrating Food Story

Innocuous-looking box of strawberries.

This morning for breakfast I washed and put on my family’s plates some beautiful big Driscoll’s strawberries. They looked perfectly ripe and not at all moldy or mushy – a normally overlooked plus you learn to appreciate here, given the extra distance they travel on hot cargo ships (ok, so they’re probably refrigerated, but I bet the fruit has periods of hot dock-sitting). Anyway, Husband ate one then asked me where I got them in a tone that implied the answer should be ‘the dump.’ I answered ‘Marina Market’ (which usually has good produce that lasts a while – and they had better, at those prices). “Well they taste like fish.” What? “Impossible” I replied (although in the back of my mind, I realized that was not at all impossible considering our lives.) Husband does exaggerate sometimes, so I dismissed it, and even put a few of the berries in BG’s lunch. Five minutes after Husband walked out door with BG to take her to school and go to work, I cleaned up breakfast and popped an uneaten strawberry in my mouth. Sure enough, it was like how I imagine a fish market might taste if you took a bite out of it. And not a nice sushi bite either– a days-old fish oil-soaked-wooden-counter-type bite. Nasty, and it continued with a long oily aftertaste. I immediately called Husband and told him that he was completely right, I was sorry I doubted him, and to please throw away BGs strawberries when they got to school. This story is frustrating on several levels: one, I had to admit I was wrong after I told Husband he was wrong (and implied he was ridiculous); two, I had to throw away a 6 dollar box of strawberries; and three, I had to eat a fish-tasting strawberry. I think I would rather have had a strawberry-tasting fish.

The cargo docks where all our food arrives on Sundays, including our fishy strawberries. I do wonder how it happened...


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