It was another beautiful day in paradise, a bit overcast and a bit drizzly. Sometimes I welcome that kind of weather on St Thomas.
Since we didn't want to sit around the house and swat mosquitos, watch dust bunnies gather, or discuss the relative merits of Light, Dark, Spiced, or Blackstrap Rum, we decided it was a good day to head to St John.
The ferry from St Thomas to St John is a quick fifteen minutes. It's a great place for a day trip.
I like to go to a small watering hole in Mongoose Junction on St John called The Sun Dog Cafe. I love it there because, usually, most of the people sitting around the bar live on St John.
This day I struck up a conversation with a guy named Jim. Jim is probably not his name, it’s just what I remember. There may have been a few beers involved, so my memory’s a bit shaky on that score. Let’s call him Jim anyway.
I instantly loved this guy. He is one of those unpretentious gentle souls who's comfortable in his skin. I enjoyed talking with him. There was no bragging, no guile, and no preening. He was just a nice guy; kind and helpful.
It’s not often you find somebody like that.
Jim lives on St John. I should say he lives just off St John on his boat. Jim used to have four boats. He was kicking off a chartering business. Then hurricane Irma hit, and Maria fell close on Irma’s heals. He lost three of his four boats. He's living on the one surviving boat.
We talked a lot about boats. He was well versed in everything nautical. I know a little, but you could measure what I know about floating things and the sea in a thimble and still have room for rum.
Jim spent some time explaining how things like boat batteries, anchor buoys, engines, construction, and the need to be self-sufficient on an island, etc. He was engaging because he was entirely there. Jim wasn't checking his phone or seeing who else cool was coming by. When he talks to you, you have all his attention.
The reason I'm writing this is I think the world can use a bunch more people like Jim. We should all strive to be present, kind, gentle and helpful.
I don't know how much of what he told me I'll remember, but I will remember how I felt around him. I felt ... important. I believe everybody likes to think they have worth.
Lesson - people may not remember what you say, but they will remember what it feels like to be around you. Make them feel important.
I want to remember that. I hope you do too.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
I don't know if you would remember Keith Haring. I had almost forgotten about him until last week when I was on a conference call. One of the engineers I was speaking with was using a Keith Haring painting as his avatar.
Do you remember this?
I remember Keith Haring's subway drawings and I remember when he died. I don't know why I remember I just do. It must have been in the news.
He's pretty famous for this "Radiant Baby" drawing.
I found his style interesting. He doesn't make pretty photorealistic oil paintings on canvas. Haring is a street artist. Some of his large murals still survive today.
I have to admit, I'm not a bit fan of everything he did, but like many people, he had a story to tell. He wanted to get a message across. He looked to draw attention, and he certainly did that.
Keith Haring is an artist whose work I remember almost 30 years after the fact. His style strummed a chord in my memory.
His work is memorable. I like that.
You could throw a lot of criticism his way, but I think he was a product of his time. The social and political issues were as divisive at the time as they are today; maybe even more then.
He was taking a stand. He was making a statement.
I like that our society allows for that kind of free speech and expression. You don't have to like it.
If you want to see more of his work you can visit his website.
He's been gone for nearly 30 years now, so he's not saying much original on social media. Most people don't say much original on social media so ...
I hope this week's artist strikes a chord with you.
Just when I thought the island couldn’t throw any more curve balls at me, today I got a wake-up call. Literally.
My eyelids were just starting to separate, and the cobwebs were beginning to clear when a shriek from upstairs invaded my still half sleeping ears.
“Scott! Scott! Come! Quickly! Hurry Up! Now!”
Yes, all the exclamation points are necessary
I thought, yet again, I had forgotten to lock the door or left the toilet running. I lumbered up the stairs like I usually do to find Andrea in her dressing gown gingerly and quickly carrying a yoga mat out the front door at arm's length. If her arms could have been longer or she could have used a barge pole, I think she would have, gladly.
Immediately, I thought, oh, okay, another cockroach.
Cockroaches and other bugs usually get that kind of reaction around here, as if they’re trying to escape Stalag 13 and the sirens need to be sounded.
Most people know me as Scott, some people know I was a Marine, but most people couldn't guess I have a shadow career. In our home, I'm an expert, or at least very experienced, cockroach sweeper. I even swept one up this morning.
Cockroaches are horrible creatures, and even I get a bit squeamish around them, but I don’t shy away from the creepy little crawlers with a shriek!
One time, I was at a bar in North Carolina. It was just outside of Jacksonville, NC - read Camp Lejeune. It was the kind of a bar that had straw, peanut shells, and other unidentified stuff milling about in the mix. I had my cowboy boots on, and to my surprise, I felt something crawling around my ankle: Yup, my ankle.
I took that ole cowboy boot off, and a couple of cockroaches scurried out of my boot. Not just one but two cockroaches. I think they were trying to set up housekeeping or something.
We’ve all had our run-ins with creepy crawlers, I’m sure.
There are all kinds of tiny household invaders on the island. Mostly its mosquitos and noseeums, but there are also:
It was a scorpion, a three-inch-long spikey-tailed scorpion. The critter didn't look all that happy. Maybe I was assuming too much. Perhaps the little bugger was enjoying all the shrieking and stomping going on. I particularly enjoyed that part where Andrea screamed like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween!
So, there are now three things I'll consider from now on while on the island:
Though most scorpions won't kill you, they can give you a nasty sting. And really, that's something I really don't want.
Until next week, I wish you, scorpion-free peace.
The first thing that crossed my lips when I saw this guy's paintings could be abbreviated "WTF." Yes, I said it out loud.
His paintings are marvelous.
You see, Kyle Ma is only 18 years old, but he paints like a master.
He is so proficient now I'm anxious to see how his work progresses into the future.
His loose and almost effortless-looking style is something to behold.
There is so much to learn. I try to take it all in. I watch in awe and try to make it happen myself. It takes lots of practice to know where to put what color when. Kyle seems to be able to do that without a second thought.
If you want to see his paintings or follow him on the internet, you can find him on his website, visit him on Facebook, or look at his posts on Instagram.
How did I spend Veteran's Day 2018?
For many people, Veterans Day is a day of celebration and parades.
For me, I walked on the beach and lifted a glass to all those souls who served their country.
Veterans Day, in the United States, falls on the same day as "Remembrance Day" / "Armistice Day" in other parts of the world. It is, as you know, on November 11th.
So, I would like to thank all the Veterans out there who have served their country nobly and honorably. If you did, I would like to thank you for serving.
This year is especially poignant in that it is on the 11th-hour of the 11th-day in the 11th-month one hundred years ago the Armistice with Germany went into effect.
Though, since that time, service men and women have been putting their life on the line in many places and in many conflicts throughout the world. That's why veterans' organizations in the United States, in 1954, lobbied to have the day renamed to "Veterans Day" to honor all veterans.
A veteran, in this context, means "a person who has served in the military." Period.
Serving in the military was an excellent opportunity for me. I was drifting like so much flotsam and jetsam on the ocean of life until I joined. It brought focus and discipline into my life at a time when I needed it and is a large part of who I am today.
Since leaving the military, some of the discipline and drive I acquired in the Marines has lingered. I am grateful for that.
I know lots of you see me as a drifter who is lucky enough to drift where I please. In part that's true, and I have had some excellent breaks in my life that allow me to continue to do that.
However, it all starts with the discipline to do the things you need to do when needs must.
I will always be grateful that I was able to serve in the Marines. It did much more for me that I ever did for them.
So, on this day, I am doubly grateful. I'm thankful for your services and for the opportunity to serve.
I hope you remembered veterans on the 11th. As for veterans, I would suggest you reflect on the benefits you got from your service as well. We are blessed.
And for what it's worth:
Until next week, I wish you peace.
You might know Danny Boyle as a filmmaker. He's been a director, a producer, and a writer of some very memorable films like Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 days later.
Why is he here today?
Along with being an accomplished figure in the filmmaking industry, he is a tremendous organizer of things like the Queen's Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
This year Danny Boyle organized a massive art installation drawing images of soldiers killed in the last days of WW I across 30 beaches in the UK.
The images were drawn in sand at low tide and washed away as the tide came in. It was a moving exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice.
The reason this exhibition caught my attention was it reminded me of a photo of my Great Grandfather who was killed in action on December 17, 1916, just two weeks after his 39th birthday.
This colorful little shaggy dog looks about as frantic as I feel.
It's a good thing he was already done and waiting.
I'm a bit frantic because I did it again.
I waited until the last minute.
Does that ever happen to you?
It seems like it's in my DNA.
When you're busy, some things have got to give.
Writing this week's newsletter is one of those things that slipped off my radar.
I wish it didn't, but it did.
I go through the week gathering ideas. When it doesn't matter, the ideas come fast and furious. I can't even beat them away with a flyswatter. I discover ridiculous, entertaining, and even funny things to write.
I could talk about an island full of mosquitos. They really will be here long after any nuclear winter. Mosquitos, freaking cockroaches and Twinkies.
Then, when it comes down to putting down my thoughts, the whole universe of ideas I've gathered all week scamper out of my head faster than I can down a shot of tequila.
The hollow space between my ears becomes a cavernous and palpable void. It's like someone polishes the inside of my brain so well the good ideas slide out and leave me with nothing.
There's nothing's left. Nada.
I know they're hiding in there someplace. I know the empty corners of my mind collect those ideas like dust bunnies and save them for later.
How do I coax those little beggars out? I've tried lots of things and made lots of promises to myself.
I promise myself I'll start writing all these ideas down, but I don't.
I promise myself I'll polish the blog post earlier in the week, but I don't.
I promise myself I'll stick to my schedule, but I don't.
Then come Thursday. Come Thursday, I'm scrambling like Fighter Command at DEFCON 1.
Nuclear Attack Imminent.
Batten down the hatches!
GET WORDS OUT OF HEAD!
So, I'm coming to you from DEFCON 1. Battle Stations in my brain.
Well, I know this is not what I planned to write.
The one thing that I've discovered is, to get it out, I've got to write. Those ideas just don't have any life until I write them down.
Good thing I love writing.
I'll keep on keeping on and...
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Angela Moulton has a thing for birds. She paints hundreds of them. I like her other paintings too, but I really love the birds.
I spend some time scrolling through Pinterest looking for interesting techniques, photos, or some inspiration from time to time.
I ran across Angela on Pinterest. Her little bird paintings caught my eye.
I started watching some of her videos to see if I could work out how she does what she does.
She makes bold strokes and leaves them where they go down. There’s no fudging, smudging, or blending involved. Just, pick a color and lay it down. The resulting style is one that is playful and eye-catching.
This style lends itself well to acrylic painting and oil painting as well. I like the freedom and decisiveness need to make this work.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, I would recommend checking out her paintings. I hope the bright colors and freedom catch you as it did mine.
You can find her in several places on the Internet, so have at it.
As I leave the cactus and lizard state today on a big silver bird, I include this fun little cactus and lizard artwork.
I dread the overnight flight from Phoenix to our tiny little island.
First of all, when I get to the airport it will be a ghost town. All of the shops will be shuttered and locked and you'll hear the echo of the lone floor sweeper zipping up and down the empty lanes. I can hear the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly playing in the back of my head.
My flight leaves Phoenix at 11:45 pm Friday and gets to Chicago at some ungodly hour in the morning. I have a three-hour forty-five-minute layover and then on to St. Thomas. Just over eight hours flying time and about five hours of airport time.
I know I'm kicking-up a bit of a fuss about how long it's going to take, but we really are so lucky to be able to travel so far, so fast.
Hell, I can get across the country on a direct flight in less than six hours. If I were flying in an SR-71, I could get across the country in just over an hour.
The 1999 final flight of the SR-71 set a speed record when it flew from Los Angeles to Washington DC in one hour, four minutes and 30 seconds. That's moving. The SR-71 Blackbird Retired By Flying Coast-To-Coast In One Hour.
I was also reading a fun article this week about an SR-71 pilot who clocked their ground speed at about nineteen hundred knots on a training flight. (1900 knots is 2,186 mph) Blackbird Pilot Trolls Arrogant Fighter Pilot with Ground Speed Check.
Speeds like 2,186 mph are mind-boggling.
Here's an example:
It's 816 miles across the breadth of Texas from El Paso to Texarkana. That distance takes almost 12 hours in a car but in an SR-71 it would take about thirty-five minutes or about five percent of the drive time.
My plane will only be going about 500 miles an hour max.
So, as I lumber through the friendly skies in the early hours of Saturday morning at a mere 500 mph, I'll be counting my blessings and thinking of you.
Until next week, I wish you peace.