If you're me, sometimes life runs right up and bites you in the backside. Something like that happened last Saturday night. It was payback time.
We went out on Friday night. Friday is the day we decide to get off our backsides and escape into the wilds of St Thomas for an evening. It takes strong external motivation to head beyond the walls of your hermit(ish) existence.
Last Friday brought some external motivation. We met a colleague of mine for dinner. Well, I might say he is a colleague and a patron as well. You see Phil and Bonnie Jacobs bought one of my paintings of St John (see painting above).
They retired and moved to Kentucky, near Louisville, with acres and acres of land, five horses and a whole passel of other critters.
Fast forward a few years, and we moved down to St. Thomas. He may have been a bit envious of our move, but he has a great life where he is too. He loves to visit the islands and this year he came to our island. Yay.
Hurricane Irma devastated this place, and there's still a lot of damage around, but repairs are ongoing. Some places, like Fresh Bistro, survived the onslaught of the storm better than others. Fresh is in full swing. The restaurant has good eats and friendly service, and, I must say, they make killer mojitos.
We had a lovely evening and want to thank them for looking us up and taking the time to see us while they were in town. Meeting up with old friends is one of my favorite things to do.
When we came home, we settled in for what we hoped was going to be a relaxing and pleasurable weekend - until Saturday.
Saturday is often referred to by people in the travel business here on St Thomas as "changeover day." It's the time when the sad, sunburned, waterlogged, and detox-ready visitors take their big silver birds home, making room for a new crop of mainlanders whose livers, libidos, and psyches are ready for a tropical makeover. For many, that includes a lot of sun, sea, and relaxation. Others take it up a notch with rum-runners and loud music.
Saturday, for us, brought us a relaxing walk on Magens Bay Beach. It started to rain a bit, so we hopped in the car and boogied on down the road to our house about a mile and a half up the Peterborg peninsula.
When we got home, we decided to kick back and have a cocktail or two and some dinner.
Unfortunately, one of the newest crop was Loki.
Do you know Loki?
Loki is a Norse god, like Odin, Thor, Tyr and that lot, but he's not a nice guy. He's one of those troublesome gods. This guy, who can be a woman too, likes to stir the pot. He is a shapeshifter that doesn't play by the rules and will put a monkey wrench into any good times.
Sometimes they call him a "Trickster." I call him annoying.
We live next door to a rental property that runs $22K per week. I guess if you pay that much you want to let your hair down a bit. But this guy, Loki, when he let his hair down, it covered the earth around him. He had more hair to let down than Rapunzel.
Actually, he was a short, stocky, middle-aged, balding, investment banking party animal from Philadelphia in a tropical blue Hawaiian shirt - and he was the owner - ugh. As he puts it, "I like to party, man."
As we were in mid-chill, we heard a cacophony from the house next door. Just imagine Led Zepplin, AC-DC, and Guns-n-Roses turned their amps up full blast, pointed the speakers at your home, and let it rip.
Well, that puts it a bit mildly.
We yelled a couple of times to ask him to turn down the music. He didn't hear the neighbors above us, or us, screaming, "Turn the F^@*ing Music Down!" So, I strapped on my indignation, slipped on my flip flops, and stomped down in the rain through the open gate to find the culprit.
When I got inside the compound, my jaw dropped at the opulence. There were marble floors, glass walls, Greek columns, and a fountain behind the pool that must have been dripping champagne. I thought I was in Shangri-La.
I found Loki and sidled up to him. "Hi," I said, "My name is Scott. I live next door."
"Hi Scott, how can I help you?" Actually, it sounded like "Hey schlotz cn I hepz-ya?" He was clearly well on his way to funky town.
"Dude! Can you please turn the music down or at least turn the speakers off that point at our house?" I said.
"Sure, man, no problem, come on in, can I offer you a drink? You say you live next door. Do you know Ken? I know Ken. I've tried to buy that house off him a hundred times. He keeps turning me down. Can you talk to him for me?"
"Sorry, no, I don't know Ken."
"You know, I spent $11 million on this place, and when I visit I like to party, you know? I like to party. I'm a party guy. Did I tell you I have 700 rental properties all over the world?"
"I understand (I didn't), but do you need to music quite so loud?"
"Here, let's go in here." By here, he meant his sound room, yes sound room, off of his glass-walled bedroom looking over Magens Bay. "Here it is. I think this is the right knob. Let's see if this works."
"Is that better?"
"Well, the walls are still shaking, can you crank it down a little more, so the earth will stop liquifying."
"You know, I come here every once in a while, and when I'm here, I like to party. I like to get along with everybody. I'm a party guy."
"No problem, I understand, can you please not shake the foundations of our house while you get your party thing going, though?"
My bitching was going nowhere, we didn't have anyplace to turn, and I was sure Loki honestly didn't care.
When I came out of his room, I saw Andrea talking to his wife who was acting clueless. She couldn't understand why we thought it was so loud. "Oh, you'll have to talk to Loki," she said. "He runs everything here. Don't worry; it'll calm down soon enough."
Anyway, we had said our piece, and he had made a small concession. Not nearly enough but I was tired of pushing the point. We scampered home, tails between our legs, shut the windows, turned on the air-conditioner, and watched the television on the other side of the building.
Sunday, more of the same. It started at about 2:30 in the afternoon - not quite as loud but I could still hear it in my marrow. We huddled around the television for a while, wore our noise-canceling headphones, and then went out for a walk. When we got home, I turned our music on to drown out his music.
I was so conflicted because I liked the music he was playing. It was a mixture of the 60s and 70s rock and roll that you can get your toe tapping and your head banging. (Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, The Eagles, and many more.) It was the thought he was playing the music loud to spite us which infuriated me.
Tuesday evening Loki came knocking at the door and said, "We're going to have a little party tonight. We have a chef coming in and a bunch of friends; and you know I like to party. We promise to have the music down by 9:30. Then tomorrow we're out on a boat and Thursday we're most likely leaving. I hope that's okay; and you know I like to party. But we'll have it down by 9:30 at the latest." Hilariously, the loud music never manifested.
The fact that he came over and warned me or discussed it with me made me feel a whole lot better. He was at least trying to consider us. He wasn't an ass for the sake of being an ass. I didn't feel so much like he was violating my space anymore.
Earlier, I mentioned it was payback time. Here's why.
When I was 17 or 18 years old, I wasn't the fine upstanding citizen you see before you today. I was a bit of an angsty, self-absorbed teen. I think we all were. Didn't you think the world revolved around you?
Anyway, in 1977 or thereabouts I was playing some Jimi Hendrix on my parent's cool-ass stereo. My dad was an electronics engineer, and he built our entire stereo system, from scratch, which my mom got in the divorce. Lucky me cause she got me too.
Dad's stereo was terrific. You could break eardrums with that thing. Unfortunately, we lived in a quiet, smallish condo in Los Altos with paper-thin walls. Our neighbor (I can't remember his name) was a retired man and his wife. The poor guy came over to ask me to turn down the music. Oh no, not Jimi. You can't turn down Jimi! I gave him a few choice words and slammed the door in his face. I'm sure he was dumbfounded and bereft.
I caught hell from my mom later on that evening. She was a good one for giving hell. Suffice it to say; I had to go and apologize and never played the stereo that loud again.
Now, fast forward about forty or so years and as they say. Payback is, shall we say, a bitter and painful pill to swallow.
So, when you least expect it. Your past might jump up and bite you. If it does, grit your teeth, take a big breath and be thankful you weren't an even more horrible child than you in fact were.
I am grateful for all the lessons in my life. I might not like them, but I am thankful.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I've been following Lori McNee for a long time. She's one of the first artists I came across on the internet.
Lori lives in Central Idaho, but one day in 2012 she came out to St Thomas.
Here she is doing a bit of plein air painting at the Ritz on St. Thomas.
Lori paints great landscapes but what I especially like are the bird paintings she does. What she calls her still life paintings are more quasi-still life because they all have some bird or other in the picture, and, of course, they are alive.
Lori has written for numerous magazines like Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, The Artist's Magazine, and her blog, Fine Art Tips. She was an early adopter of blogging and social media, and it has served her well.
If you'd like to read more about Lori McNee to learn a bit about what makes her tick this article is a good read, Lori McNee-From Duck Stamps to Monet’s Garden.
I like reading her blog too, but you can find her in these exciting places across the interweb.
Practice can mean a couple of things.
You can practice something to get better, or you make something your practice to do something. You make it your habit. It's how you apply your time.
As in - it is my practice to take a walk every day.
Doctors have a "practice." That doesn't mean that they're still working the kinks out. They make medicine their practice. They apply their medical knowledge and skills to healing others.
Lawyers practice the law. They apply their legal expertise to a particular area of the law in service to others.
To be good at anything you have to make it your practice to do that thing. It has to be a habit. It's not just practicing as in rehearsing for a game, but the practice is the game.
I played golf a few weeks ago with my friends Jan and Brian in Arizona. I hadn't played a lot this year.
Because I hadn't played much, I wasn't very confident. I'd miss a lot of shots I should have made. I duffed way more shots than I should have.
I know when I play more, I play more confidently, and I play better.
It's quite stressful trying to hit over a water hazard when you have no clue where the ball's going to end up. Stress will give you the yips, or you could miss the ball entirely. But if you play a lot, and you've hit tons of shots over the water, you expect it to work.
I did have a great time. However, if I had made it my practice to go to play golf every day (or even a couple of times a week, or at least go to the driving range), I would have played much better.
I want to get better at drawing and writing, so I have built a practice of showing up to write and draw every week.
You see, I love making things. Publishing them here gives me the incentive.
I'm grateful you read, and I maybe get something out of it sometimes too.
I want to make you smile, I want to make you think, and sometimes, I only want to divert your attention from all the yuckiness out there and make your day better.
I want to make it my practice to make your life just a touch better from time to time.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I've been following this guy on Instagram and I love his work. He specialized in multimedia portraits. His name is George Papadakis.
His portraits of athletes are very popular. The portrait he's standing next to here is of a pole vaulter called Sandi Morris.
Here is a portrait he did of Tiger Woods.
These are places you can find her on the internet.
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YouTube Twitter Website
I'm not always crabby. Maybe it seems that way sometimes.
Last weekend I saw these little, teeny, tiny Fiddler Crabs on the beach. Most of them were no larger than a thumbnail. They don't get big at all.
They're called Fiddler Crabs because have one dominant claw that can remind you of a violin. They use that claw for digging, and a waving mating ritual — the crab with the most prominent claw and the best wave wins. It means they will be great providers. Then can dig the best and safest burrows. A perfect place to raise their young.
Their big ole claw is their Valentine card!
Every species has its rituals. Rams butt heads, giraffes bang heads, frogs croak, and have you ever seen a peacock. Now, that's a display.
I suppose we humans have Valentines Day. But we're far more sophisticated than that, aren't we?
We're so far beyond comparing claws.
This year I'll think of you fondly on Valentine's Day. I hope you have all the love you need in your life and more.
Rick, I remember you with love on your birthday. Happy Birthday Rick!
I'll remember all those I love, and I wish them well.
I've never been very good at sending cards. I'm still not very good at it at all.
If you ever thought I shunned you on Valentines Day because you didn't get a card, I'm sorry. I apologize unreservedly.
This week, I'll send lovin' vibes out your way.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I was introduced to this week's artist's work about six months ago by Clint Goodwin, one of my weekly readers. Clint is an award-winning author who writes historic fiction looking through the eyes of a cavalry horse. Very creative.
This week's artist is Caroline Towning. She is a great equine artist based out of London.
Originally from Yorkshire (near Harrogate), she's been around horses all her life. She said she was taught to ride even before she could talk properly.
She went on to University in Hertfordshire where she studied Digital Art, then went on to work at an animation studio. She worked long hours and there was a lot of pressure. Finally, she got a bit burned out.
In 2015 she decided to follow her dream and become a full-time artist and painter. She bought an easel and paints and got started.
She paints portraits and horses and wants you to feel the horse's breath on your neck. Actually, she says she wants you to feel like the horse is in the room with you.
I think she's got something there. I'm happy to present her to you today.
Here are the places you can find her on the internet.
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Go out and make some art!
This little drawing kinda says it all about today. A surly peacock. Why do they always look angry?
Let me tell you that living on an island like St. Thomas isn't all butterflies, flowers, sand, seas, and rum punch.
Practical things need to be done. Sometimes that involves other people. Today it was the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
If you engage with any government agency, anywhere, you need to have patience.
When you're dealing with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles on St Thomas, you need to store up bucketloads of patience, a smidgen of perseverance, and a hip-flask full of whiskey (or rum) before you stand in line.
Here's what the Virgin Islands BMV says its vision is:
"Our vision is to establish a model of Bureau of Motor Vehicles administration that is comparable to any jurisdiction."
Well, that's high falutin.
Okay - let me compare the VI Bureau of Motor Vehicles with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).
I've recently had the honor of using the "services" in both places, so I think I have a pretty good perspective.
First, because the ADOT website is clear, I knew I would need an emissions test, I went down to the ADOT - Emissions Testing Facility. I pulled into the line and waited my turn. I think there were about three cars in front of me.
When I got to the testing station, a youngish guy asked me to take a seat while he put the car through its paces. I sat for about five minutes as the machines whirred. I watched the flashing lights, graphs, and readouts of the magical electronic evaluation system do their job. I paid about seventeen dollars and walked away with my certificate of squeaky cleanness.
I then drove about 1/4 mile to the BMV office. I walked through the door and went to a well-signed table that said, "Information." I went to that table, and a friendly person said, "Sir, you need to stand in the green line," as they pointed to a green line on the floor.
"Ah, thank you very much," I said. I can understand green, and I know what a line is. Perfect.
I waited in the green line for about 10-15 minutes. The line was pretty long, but they seemed to be working through customers systematically and efficiently.
When it was my turn, I sat in front of a young lady who helped me through the process of transferring the title of my father's car into my name and registering the vehicle. The whole process, start to finish, including vehicle emissions testing and travel time, took between thirty and forty minutes tops.
I walked out with a brand new title and registration with time left over for a beer.
St Thomas on the other hand was, shall I say, a little bit different.
We've done this several times before, so I thought we had it covered.
We took the old jalopy up over the hill from Magens Bay, through Charlotte Amalie and down to the Department of motor vehicles. We got there about 11:30, and I proudly pulled into the inspection area. The guy didn't even turn around. I could have run him over.
He eventually came to the car window and asked for the registration document.
Okay, I didn't understand him first. It sounded something like "I've got cotton balls in my mouth because I'm trying out for the Marlon Brando's role in The Godfather. So I probably can't articulate the words necessary to communicate. Please interpret my mumbles as - pass me the registration, my good man."
How we discovered it was the registration he wanted is beyond me. We just handed him every scrap of paper we had on hand, and he pointed at the right one.
Then he walked to the front of the car and said - "Turn on the lights, OK, Left Signal, OK, Right Signal, OK, Horn, Beep, OK." Enough with the front of the car, he went to the rear of the car and said, "Brakes, OK, Left Signal, OK, Right Signal, OK, Reverse, OK.." He stamped his seal of approval on the registration and gave us a slip of paper.
Then, again, he did his best Marlon Brando impression and told us to back across town to a building by "The Fort." I knew where "The Fort" was but had no clue what he was talking about. I was afraid to ask for more directions because I didn't want him to make me an offer I couldn't refuse.
The stamped piece of paper in hand, we hared off back across town, for what purpose we were still not sure, to that non-descript government building near "The Fort." We still didn't know why we were going, but we went anyway.
There was some debate as to whether it was before or after "The Fort" and in what proximity it was to "The Fort." So we headed instinctively to someplace close to the Police Department.
Andrea said, in her determined authoritative voice, "I've got this."
She stoically wandered into the government building, and was immediately x-rayed and had her phone confiscated. I'm sure, just when she thought she would never see the light of day again, she emerged unscathed, bewildered, but proudly clutching the now twice stamped document. We took our pirates treasure, loaded up the Jeep, and made our way back across town.
She discovered, only by chance, they had to check if there were any warrants, violations, or funny pictures of us on the internet.
When we got back across town to the BMV there are no instructions as to what to do or where to go; people were just milling around aimlessly. We had to ask one of the customers what the first steps were. I couldn't see the process/directions posted anywhere. Finally, we co-milled around with people who looked like they were all going in one direction. It was like that Apple Commercial in 1984.
It took about ten minutes to turn the paperwork into an incomprehensible void. It could have been from a science fiction movie. The woman at the counter logged our information into her mysterious master log book and gave us a number.
Our number was 109. Then we heard a disembodied voice say, "Number 87, come to window number three." Yup - we're in for the long haul.
I have to say; there was no rhyme or reason for the order they were calling numbers. By the time we thought they would be coming to number 109 they jumped and called number 110, then 111, then 108, and again called number 87. There is no way to tell how long we'd have to wait.
It was close to 2:20 pm before we heard our magic number. They closed at 2:30 pm today.
We had a small party before lodging ourselves firmly in front of window number #2. We were able to get away with paying only $180 for the entertainment we enjoyed at the VI BMV today.
I would say this BMV is the most inefficient and shoddily run organization on the island, but I fear there are a lot of places here that fit that bill.
On the bright side
I always enjoy visiting Old San Juan. It has a beautiful historical Spanish Caribbean feel.
There are plenty of wonderful places to visit in the old town. We've visited Castillo San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro (old colonial fortresses on the north coast) several times.
There is something about sitting down for a cold Magna beer just down the street from Parque de las Palomas after several hours of wandering the streets of San Juan that can send me into an otherworldly state of mind.
I love to wander the streets of the old city looking for local art. I love local art that has a soul. I don't like things that look like sweatshop knockoffs from a third world country.
If you enter the city from the centuries-old Puerta de San Juan, you will find yourself wandering, like many weary travelers, up Caleta de San Juan towards the Cathedral.
Just before the Cathedral Plaza, when the church is coming into plain view, look to your left. You will find a small shop on the left-hand side called Tres Mujeres at 63 Caleta de San Juan.
This little shop is a cooperative run by, and you might guess if you spoke Spanish, Three Women.
This little shop displays the talent of three local women: Ceramics is the department of Yelin Vivoni, Enid Silvestry is in charge of textiles, and the paintings are brought to you by Dafne Elvira.
The artists themselves staff the shop so you're bound to meet up with one of them when you're there. This week we were able to chat for a little while with Enid Silvestry.
I really enjoyed looking through their shop. If you every get to Old San Juan wander up from the Old Gate and take a peak in their shop.
Go out and make some art!